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How Do You Fire a Family Member?

Ninety percent of businesses in the United States are family owned. Some of the biggest brands in America were family founded and are controlled by a family.

Walmart and Berkshire Hathaway are two of the largest examples.

While family-run businesses can be close-knit, friendly, successful and inspiring, they are not without their challenges. One challenge of family leadership is becoming stuck in the same old ways of doing things (because of family pressure) even when the company is growing.

Another challenge is breaking bad news to employees of the company who also happen to be family members. For example, how do you attempt to demote a family member to a lower rung on the company ladder? Or, worse yet, how do you tell Mom and Dad it might be time to retire?

How Do You Fire a Family Member?

In order to shed some light on the unique challenges facing family-run businesses, Small Business Trends spoke with Kathy Kolbe, a global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts, and her daughter Amy Bruske, President of Kolbe Corp. Kathy and Amy have been working in their own family business for more than 20 years. Both are award-winning consultants and advisors to more than 3,000 owners of family businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

As mother and daughter, working together for more than two decades, Kolbe and Bruske have personally experienced every situation discussed in their new book Business is Business: Reality Checks for Family-Owned Companies, which provides research-based insight on the most effective ways to run a business and manage relationships.

Neither Kolbe nor Bruske recall a time when they wished they were working anywhere else.

Here’s some advice they share with Small Business Trends on how to tell a family member they’re no longer needed in the business.

Don’t Become Known as the Family Member Who Fires People

First Kolbe and Bruske insist family members can avoid being criticized for firing another member of the family by praising the individual’s level of effort, if appropriate, and by confirming and discussing what they naturally do well and careers suited to those abilities. Family members should analyze why continued efforts would not be fruitful and examples and references for where and with whom they might succeed should be given. Criticisms of being the one doing the firing could also be avoided by sharing a vision for the future and, as Kolbe and Bruske explain:

“Agreeing on how you will share the information with others, including all company employees and non-employee family members.”

Show Some Tact When You Fire a Family Member

Family members firing co-workers with a family attachment should show tact about the uncomfortable situation at all times. According to Kolbe and Bruske, employers firing family workers should avoid bringing up any other family members’ performances in the company. They should also refrain from discussing the situation with other family members who are uninvolved in the management of the business.

During social situations and at family gatherings, the family business members should avoid referencing the situation to avoid awkwardness and conflict.

Equally, families should not, according to Kolbe and Bruske:

“Incriminate or assign blame if they in fact tried hard and did nothing unethical or against policies.”

They should also avoid itemizing errors or omissions and assigning guilt to anybody.

Forcing the founder out of a family business is an even more complex task than firing family employees.

Attempt to Build Trust

To help assuage this difficult and complex situation, Kolbe and Bruske say family businesses should aim to involve a non-family adviser who is trusted by the founder. They should also openly ask the founder about his or her plans for the future and, if possible, have the founder set a transition date and communicate decisions to others. Company time should also be invested into assisting the founder in moving on to a desired adventure.

“Create a special celebration event or document (e.g. book, painting, photos) that the founder can look forward to and that can be used for closure,” Kolbe and Bruske recommend.

Avoid Bullying or Patronizing

In such situations, it is important that the founder is not bullied or patronized. The true entitlements of the founder should also be honored. The family business members should also not be afraid to ask for the founder’s advice or, as Kolbe and Bruske explain:

“Change everything that the founder did that made the business successful.”

Running and working for a family business can be rewarding and fulfilling but is not without its trials and tribulations. As explained above, tact, patience and diplomacy should be applied when it comes to the difficult situation of firing a family member.

Fired Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How Do You Fire a Family Member?" was first published on Small Business Trends



Why We Need Gender-Balanced Leadership in Biz NowThe need for a gender-balanced form of leadership in the modern workplace has been documented for years. While some progress has been made, there is still a lot of work to be done before the world makes even a dent in the so-called “glass ceiling”. Author Melissa Greenwell wants to know why it’s taking so long. Her book, Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits through Gender-Balanced Leadership explores the delays in creating a more gender-balanced form of leadership and what these delays are doing to a company’s potential bottom line.

What is Money on the Table About?

While Greenwell has the moral high ground arguing for gender-balanced leadership, in Money on the Table she wants to draw her reader’s attention to the financial and strategic reasons for more gender-inclusive leadership. Greenwell argues strongly that businesses with more gender balance earn more money, hire better talent, and make better decisions over male-dominated ones. In her view, businesses that offer more opportunities for women (especially in leadership) will have a decisive competitive advantage in the future.

Money on the Table starts off the “gender equality in the workplace” conversation by pointing out the discrepancy between nice-sounding policies and real action. To understand that a gap still exists, Greenwell cites interviews from both male and female executives. These interviews revealed key differences in how male and female leaders implemented gender equality. Both male and female leaders, however, still hold to the social convention of women taking care of the house in addition to work. This social convention seems held even in businesses more open about gender inclusion. To make things a little clearer, the workplace (especially leadership) is slanted socially, psychologically and financially to maintain the “glass ceiling” despite attempts to change it.

Despite this dismal picture, Greenwell is confident we can break the “glass ceiling”. With a willingness to proactively change how we educate, hire and promote women in the workplace, businesses can tap into the positive and profitable cycle that will give them a unique competitive advantage. As other businesses take note, our society will move closer to the critical mass it takes to make a more permanent change in workplace practices. At that point, every business will wonder why they took so long to embrace gender equality in the workplace.

In addition to being an author, Greenwell is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Finish Line, an athletic apparel retail business. In her 30-year corporate history, Greenwell has spent over two decades working at the C-suite level. She is also a certified executive coach and speaker on the topic of gender-balanced leadership. In addition, Greenwell is the director of the Special Olympics Indiana Board and Finish Line Youth Foundation.

What Was Best About Money on the Table?

In Money on the Table, Greenwell offers probably one of the most authentic voices you will ever hear on gender balance in the workplace. In the book, she is not afraid to confront leaders, male and female, about their roles in advancing gender equality in the business world. She wants real change and provides the research to support her belief that gender balance needs to be addressed aggressively. In summary, Money on the Table is not a dry, academic book that talks about gender balancing policies. It’s a practical guide for policies that Greenwell believes we need immediately.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

For all its urgency, Money on the Table pushes leaders to act quickly in regards to gender equality without providing a clear overall look at what a comprehensive gender-balanced policy should look. The second part of the book does contain some general recommendations and principles but no checklist or directions are given for leaders who want to start from scratch. In other words, Money on the Table helps explain why workplace equality is important but doesn’t give a comprehensive look at how to get there.

Why Read Money on the Table?

In Money on the Table, Greenwell places specific emphasis on leaders at the top of the organizational chart  because she contends that leaders set the tone for workplace culture. As she describes in the book, the behavior and beliefs of executive leaders have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the business. Organizational culture is not static like furniture. It’s dynamic, something that is reinforced daily through the words and actions of the people in the workplace. Money on the Table offers a more proactive and ambitious guide to the reality of gender equality in business. The book offers a way for leaders to make a financial and strategic case for becoming more active about hiring and retaining more women at all levels of business.

This article, "Money on the Table Shows Why We Need Gender-Balanced Business Leadership Now" was first published on Small Business Trends



Does anything scare you when it comes to managing your small business?

If you are like many other small business owners, you know all too well how things can change in a heartbeat.

At one point and time, things are humming along. Take a look a couple of months down the road and you’re nearing or in the red.

So, how do you go about doing all you can to keep your small business on solid financial ground?

While there are many ways to approach this, some work better than others.

Are You on Top of Your Business Needs?

To do your best to keep your small business running along, file away these tips:

  1. Expenditures

One area of major importance is of course your office expenditures.

Are you spending too much money, money that can be saved with some ingenuity on your part?

Always look to see where you can cut costs without cutting performance.

Areas to scale back on include supplies, transportation, and how many hours the office is open.

With that last one, letting employees work from home one day a week can lessen your need to be open five days a week. How much could you save with an extra day a week having the office closed?

Also, go back and review what you spend for office supplies.

In many instances, you are not doing needed things like recycling or buying supplies in bulk.

And when it comes to transportation needs, think how you use any office vehicles.

For instance, if you have to make deliveries to and/or meet with customers, think about how you schedule them.

Try and get with several customers all in a period of time the same day, avoiding running in and out of the office.

  1. Growth

Understanding when to grow your small business is important.

While you might be timid, know that increasing your company’s capacity can be what the doctor ordered.

In doing this, you might need some fast cash for your small business.

If you do need some cash infusion, be sure to research the options available to you.

Knowing where that money will be coming from, what to expect in return etc. are both quite important.

Take the time to think about any growth plans.

The worst thing you could do is rush into an expansion. This would be one in which you were not prepared on many fronts.

  1. Security

Even if wanting to grow moving forward, don’t fall asleep on your company’s security.

As an example, has your company ever faced a security breach? If not, consider yourself lucky.

Too many companies over the last decade have in fact suffered security breaches. They can be even more impactful when it is the small business owner taking the hit.

To keep on solid financial ground, be sure to invest in whatever security needs are necessary.

From your online efforts to what you do as a small business owner offline, never think it can’t happen to you.

So, as you move forward this year, do you consider your small business to be on solid financial ground?

Photo credit: Pixabay

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.

 

The post Is Your Small Business on Solid Financial Ground? appeared first on Successful Blog.



Millions of Americans would have the chance to cut their taxes by essentially turning themselves into small business entities.


Technology Disruption Has Lead to the Rise Of The Craft BrandBrands aren’t what they used to be. In the past, brands were a physical symbol that represented value. When you bought a Coca-Cola, the red logo assured that you were getting a good soda. Nowadays, brands have become more complicated. They still represent a physical product, but they can mean a lot more than that. In The Rise Of The Craft Brand: Why Small is Going to Be Huge, author Ben Zifkin explains how this changing definition of branding can be leveraged to help a small business compete with a large-sized competitor.

What is The Rise of the Craft Brand About?

The central message of The Rise Of The Craft Brand is about technology’s disruption of the relationship between branding, distribution and commerce. Just a few years ago, the only way to get a Ralph Lauren shirt was to find a retailer, like Macy’s or Sears, that sold that product. With the rise of technology like the internet, you don’t even need to leave your chair to purchase that Ralph Lauren shirt from Amazon, the Ralph Lauren site, or any number of online stores and auctions.

This disruption between branding, distribution and commerce has resulted in the emergence of craft branding. Craft branding, unlike other types of branding, doesn’t depend on going big. The goal isn’t to reach every customer in the world. The goal of craft branding is to produce specialty. Craft branding is the strategic marriage of a small business brand and technology. When these two get together, big-name retailers are in trouble.

Why should big-name retailers be frightened by craft branding? There are a couple of reasons. First, many big-name retailers (although this is slightly changing) rely on mass-produced brands that don’t have the flexibility of a craft brand. The old-school brand of the past was a physical symbol focused on getting a transaction from mass-produced items (like a Coca-Cola bottle). Craft brands are different. They can afford to charge higher prices and produce on a smaller scale because they can leverage technology and a deeper relationship with an audience that wants a distinctive experience.

The Rise of the Craft Brand explores how small brands, like Under Armour were able to leverage their resources to become disruptive competitors to established businesses like Nike.

Zifkin is a former software engineer and consultant, founder and CEO of Hubba, a B2B network that connects retailers and brands. An avid supporter of technology is on the board of directors for Ladies Learning to Code and Hacker You.

What Was Best About The Rise of the Craft Brand?

Rise of the Craft Brand approaches the topic of a branding from a different (and much-needed) perspective. The trend in business books has been to discuss branding as a concrete “thing” that a person or business does. Rise of the Craft Brand expands that concept of branding and demonstrates how commerce will be affected by it. The brands profiled in this book provide a glimpse of how current businesses are adapting now for that upcoming future.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Rise of the Craft Brand celebrates the empowering potential of small businesses to make a big impact but it could use more detail to flesh out the concept of a “craft brand”. First, the book identifies a few characteristics of craft brands” but fails to show how craft brands differ from other types of brand. Second, the book fails to outline a specific strategy for craft brands. The author shares his own personal experience with Hubba along with other businesses but there isn’t enough detail for a full-fledged strategy. Having this kind of strategy might help struggling small business owners.

Why Read The Rise of the Craft Brand?

“For any business leader interested in the future of commerce, Rise of the Craft Brand offers a glimpse into the technology that is disrupting big-name retailers. This disruption is changing the ways that brands are created and developed, leaving room for small businesses to make a big marketing impact without a large-scale budget. For those who want a sneak peek of what this disruption looks like in the present, Rise of the Craft Brand profiles small businesses that were able to benefit from this disruption and launch into a powerful brand while following their own path to success.

This article, "Technology Disruption Has Lead to the Rise Of The Craft Brand" was first published on Small Business Trends



United Airlines is Trying to Fix Its Reputation

Weeks after the company’s PR nightmare stemming from a video of a customer being dragged off an overbooked plane, United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) has been doing some soul searching.

The company just released 10 new policy changes aimed at improving customer service. Some of those changes include limiting use of law enforcement personnel to safety and security issues only, not requiring seated passengers to give up their seats involuntarily, increasing incentives for those who do give up seats, and making sure that crews are booked onto flights at least 60 minutes prior to departure.

After the initial incident, the company stumbled over its response. Messaging from Unites Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was inconsistent and, in the eyes of many customers, inappropriate. So calls for boycotts and lawsuits ensued.

Hopefully, your small business will never experience a PR nightmare that’s even close to the one United has found itself in. But at some point, you may experience some negative press or customer sentiments toward your brand. And when that happens, it’s important to come up with a satisfactory solution and response quickly.

United Airlines is Trying to Fix Its Reputation

This new plan from United is a decent example of showing customers some changes stemming from a negative experience. It shows that the company can potentially learn from its mistakes and won’t let a similar incident happen again. However, in the case of the United debacle, it might have been better — and less damaging to the company’s brand — to have come up with that solution sooner.

United Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "After Big PR Fail, United Airlines Tries to Fix Its Customer Service" was first published on Small Business Trends



AEA Investors has recapitalized Grimes, Iowa-based National Carwash Solutions, a service and systems provider for the North American car wash industry. No financial terms were disclosed. BlackArch served as financial adviser to NCS on the transaction. NCS is a former portfolio company of Trivest Partners.

PRESS RELEASE

BlackArch Partners (“BlackArch”) is pleased to announce the recapitalization of National Carwash Solutions (“NCS” or the “Company”), a former portfolio company of Trivest Partners (“Trivest”), by the AEA Investors Small Business Fund (“AEA”).
NCS, headquartered in Grimes, Iowa, is the leading service and systems provider to the North American car wash industry. Management has established the largest direct, end-to-end customer service and support network with over 250 service technicians nationwide. Complementing the service suite is the widest selection of car wash systems, accessories and parts under the Ryko (www.Ryko.com) and MacNeil (www.MacNeilwash.com) brands, as well as a complete line of cleaning fluid solutions. This comprehensive offering allows NCS to address nearly every customer need throughout the lifecycle of a car wash system. For more information, please visit the Company’s website – www.NationalCarwashSolutions.com.

Mike Gillen, CEO of NCS, commented: “BlackArch provided superior leadership, fact-based counsel, and a tailored approach from pitch to close based on our goals and objectives. The entire BlackArch team partnered and integrated with our team seamlessly to provide the support we needed to deliver a successful outcome. Most importantly, we were afforded several compelling options for the shareholders and closed the process in partnership with a sponsor eager to support our growth plan. We look forward to working with BlackArch again in the future.”

In addition, Russ Wilson, Partner of Trivest, said: “From pitch to closing, the BlackArch team was exemplary. BlackArch’s thoughtful and high-touch marketing process, focused senior attention and deep market/buyer insight, make the firm the preeminent sell-side advisor for great middle-market companies. We are proud to count BlackArch as a key partner and appreciate all of their hard work to make the NCS transaction a success.”

BlackArch was retained by NCS’s management team and financial sponsor, Trivest, to serve as exclusive financial advisor on the transaction. The NCS transaction builds upon BlackArch’s significant momentum with market-leading and high-growth platform companies in the middle market, and leverages deep sector experience in both Business & Professional Services, Automotive Aftermarket and Diversified Industrials

About Trivest Partners
Trivest Partners is a private investment firm that focuses on partnering with founder/family-owned businesses in the United States and Canada. Since its founding in 1981, Trivest has completed more than 250 transactions, totaling almost $6 billion in value. For additional information, please visit www.trivest.com.

About AEA Investors
AEA Investors LP was founded in 1968 by the Rockefeller, Mellon, and Harriman family interests and S.G. Warburg & Co. as a private investment vehicle for a select group of industrial family offices with substantial assets. AEA’s active individual investors (the “Participants”) include an extraordinary network of more than 75 of the world’s leading industrial families, business executives and former government leaders. Today, AEA’s approximately 60 investment professionals operate globally with offices in New York, Connecticut, London, Munich and Shanghai. The firm manages funds that have approximately $10.0 billion of invested and committed capital including the leveraged buyouts of middle market companies and small business companies and mezzanine and senior debt investments. AEA Private Equity invests across four sectors: value added industrial products, specialty chemicals, consumer / retail and services. For additional information, please visit www.aeainvestors.com.

About BlackArch Partners
BlackArch Partners is a leading middle-market investment bank offering merger and acquisition, strategic advisory and private capital solutions to financial sponsors, private companies and diversified corporations. Please visit www.blackarchpartners.com for more details.



Small Business Reading List  Articles You May Have Missed this Week

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

Best Practices

 

HR

 

Inspiring Success Stories

 

Marketing

 

Money

 

Sales

 

Startup

 

Tech

 

 

The post 6 Ways to Turn Millennials Into Loyal Small Business Customers; Giving Employees Feedback That Gets Results & More appeared first on Small Biz Daily.



Small businesses got some welcome news this week — in the form of President Donald Trump’s proposed tax cuts.

In addition, a recent report suggests that small business loans at institutional lenders and small banks are on the rise. You can read about these news items and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Finance Small Businesses Big Winners in Proposed Trump Tax Cuts

Historic tax cuts for American small businesses could be just around the corner. In an announcement at the White House today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled proposed sweeping reforms to the tax code for all U.S. businesses. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn presented proposals to overhaul the personal tax code.

Small Business Loans at Institutional Lenders, Small Banks on the Uptick

The latest Biz2Credt Small Business Lending Index shows a positive outlook for small business loans based on their approval rates. Specific upticks were measured at institutional lenders and small banks.

Economy National Small Business Week: The History of an Entrepreneurial Tradition

A lot has changed in America since the 1960s and while many things are different in today’s United States, at least one of the fundamentals driving us all forward is still the same.

Residents of This State Want to Work from Home More than Anyone Else in the US

A not-so-surprising trend is gathering steam across the U.S. The trend, which is indicative of what is happening in other markets around the world, is that more and more workers want to work from home. To better understanding how this trend is taking shape in the U.S, a New York-startup called AND CO set out to identify the states that have the most residents who want to work from home.

Marketing Tips Chocolate Rain 10th Anniversary Calls Attention to Power of Viral Marketing

This week marks the tenth anniversary of viral sensation “Chocolate Rain” by singer and internet personality Tay Zonday. And this milestone isn’t just about celebrating a flash-in-the-pan online hit. It also serves as an important reminder for businesses. Chocolate Rain was one of the first truly viral internet sensations.

How to Use Different Types of Content When Marketing Your Small Business (Infographic)

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 6 years, you’ve probably heard about using content marketing to promote your small business. Even as a solopreneur, content marketing works to bolster brand awareness, build your reputation, attract customers, and keep your website fresh. However, with all the noise online, content marketing has gotten harder.

Retail Trends Amazon’s New Subscription Service Should Have You Rethinking Your Products

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) just added a new marketplace, Subscribe with Amazon, to help consumers find digital subscriptions, highlighting a potential opportunity for companies to increase ongoing revenue streams. Subscribe with Amazon Digital subscriptions can include things like Amazon’s Prime service, music streaming services and even online newspaper subscriptions.

New Trend: Marijuana — at the Drive-Thru?

Ever since states like Colorado started legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, most customers have had to go into stores to make their purchases. But that’s no longer the case for customers of one Colorado business. Tumbleweed Express is a drive-thru marijuana dispensary in Colorado. It’s housed in an old car wash.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Brickell Men’s Products Offers Natural Grooming Options

There are plenty of natural and luxury grooming products out there for women. But the market for similar men’s products isn’t nearly as robust. Enter Brickell Men’s Products. The company started because of a lack of natural skin care options and has started to offer more and more grooming options without all the chemicals found in most other men’s products.

Social Media LinkedIn Reaches 500 Million User Mark; 9 Million Businesses Use Site

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) has hit a major milestone. The social media site just hit the half-billion user mark. That’s right — 500 million users. Further, there are now 9 million businesses actively on the site. The power of this community benefits a global audience, allowing businesses and their perspective employees and clients to connect like never before.

Startup What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur? (INFOGRAPHIC)

What separates successful entrepreneurs from the rest? Among other things, prior work experience seems to be a key deciding factor. According to data gathered by accommodation booking agent Central London Apartments, 96 percent of successful entrepreneurs credited “prior work experience” for their success.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, Leveraged a Local Market for Global Success

Jack Ma built one of the world’s largest eCommerce companies, Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) by leveraging opportunities in a local market. Ma was born in Hangzhou, China, in 1964. He grew up poor and started off by giving English tours to foreigners for free. Today, his net worth amounts to approximately $28.

Technology Trends Google Says Websites Shouldn’t Mark Republished Content for Index

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) recently suggested more steps toward eliminating duplicate content across the web. And website owners, including small business owners, may want to pay attention considering the search engine has a history of eventually penalizing sites for not taking heed.

10 Ways Digital Signatures are Changing How Contracts are Signed

Development in digital technology has introduced new levels of efficiency across almost all industries. In the business world, everything from the way companies communicate to accounting, HR, marketing and even how documents are signed has been improved.

YouTube Provides Update on Restricted Mode Filter

YouTube is making more changes to the now-controversial Restricted Mode. YouTube Updates Restricted Mode In an official post on the YouTube Creators Blog, the site’s vice president of product management, Johanna Wright, says the algorithm that filtered content out of Restricted Mode was wrong.

More Entrepreneurs Hiring Help for DIY Website Builder Tools

DIY website builder tools have seen amazing growth in the marketplace. And it’s no surprise why. With tools from vendors such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Jimdo and WordPress.com, you build your own website through a do-it-yourself experience. With them, it’s possible to have a classy-looking website online in a matter of a few hours or less.

Infusionsoft Propel Supplies Mobile Marketing Experience

Infusionsoft used the kickoff of day one of  #ICON17 to announce Infusionsoft Propel, the latest mobile based solution from the company. “You need to be connected and present with your customers in the ways they want to be connected,” said COO Terry Hicks in an announcement streamed on the company’s Facebook page.

WordPress Announces Yet Another Maintenance Update

WordPress 4.7.4 is now available. The release contains 47 maintenance enhancements and fixes. Chief among them includes a visual editor compatibility fix for an upcoming version of Chrome. With the new update, uploading audio and video files will no longer result in broken thumbnails.

Guru Introduces New Feature to Get Paid As You Complete Tasks

Starting May 2, all freelancers working in the Guru platform will be able to create task-based agreements that will see them get paid once they complete their tasks. Guru Task-Based Agreements “We already introduced recurring billing to give you greater control over how you get paid,” said Guru’s communications manager Anna Bassham in an official post on the Guru blog.

Have You Seen the New Home Page for Google Analytics?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has a new home landing page for its popular analytics service. The page features clear data sets and simplified language, generally making it easier for anyone to navigate and understand.

Image: WhiteHouse.gov/YouTube

This article, "Tax Cuts, Lending Upticks Make Small Business Headlines" was first published on Small Business Trends




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Residential customers and small businesses could receive thousands of dollars under a proposed settlement with the companies sued for a chemical spill and resulting water crisis in West Virginia’s capital area three years ago. If the federal court approves, the settlement filing shows West Virginia American Water would pay up to […]


Why Landing Pages Are Important

It’s 2017 and there are multiple surveys out there saying more than half of small businesses out there still don’t have a website. And, according to an upcoming survey from Leadpages, even many of those with websites don’t understand why landing pages are important – why they need pages optimized for converting site visitors into contacts and leads.

While on the exhibition floor at Infusionsoft’s ICON 17 event this week I had a chance to speak with Bob “The Teacher” Jenkins, Manager of Education Content for Leadpages. Bob shares why landing pages are important and why it’s more important than ever to have those landing pages optimized for conversation. He also discusses why Google’s emphasis on speedy page load times will impact your landing page conversion rates.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the whole conversation watch the video, or click the embedded SoundCloud player.

* * * * *

Why Landing Pages Are ImportantSmall Business Trends: So give us a little background on Leadpages.

Bob Jenkins: We pre-launched Leadpages in 2012 before the software existed. Our co-founder and CEO Clay Collins had an idea of turning templates that could be uploaded into a template machine where people wouldn’t even have to upload them, they just need to change what the text was on the page. And so, in November of 2012, we had a pre-launch. January it was launched as an actual product with a couple hundred users right out of the gate. Four and a half years later, we have 47,000 customers. We are number 148 on the Inc. 500. We’ve been profitable since day one but have also raised $38,000,000 dollars in that time frame from venture capital money. So we do very well with our customer base. We love helping small businesses make it easier to market what they’re doing and turn more people into customers.

Small Business Trends: So what are a couple of the biggest challenges small businesses face in creating pages that actually convert?

Bob Jenkins: First of all, it’s knowing that they should have a landing page. A lot of people think they need a website that has all the bells and whistles; has fifteen pages or forty-five pages, and then low and behold, none of their pages actually have a way to capture a lead. They might have a phone number or they might have contact us or something like that, but the difference between a regular website and the landing page is that idea of focusing on conversion. So, first of all, small businesses have to realize that they have to have those types of pages. We have a small business report that is being released here this spring that’s finds most small businesses don’t even think they need a landing page. All you need is a website…that’s just not cutting it.

Now, once they have a landing page, what they need to remember is that people don’t care about your product, they care about their problem being solved. So, in your landing pages, make sure you’re communicating what’s the number one problem you’re solving, and describe enough of the solution to make them want to say yes to knowing more. Whether that’s giving their email address or that’s buying a product, don’t overwhelm them with all the details and information until they’ve said at least one yes along the way.

Small Business Trends: Are there any other important aspects of landing pages that customers overlook?

Bob Jenkins: One is to make sure that your ability to convert is easy to find. We call these call to action buttons. They need to be of high contrasting color. They need to be above the fold, which means as soon as you land on a page, that button is visible. You don’t have to scroll for it, you don’t have to hunt for it. And there’s another one lower down so if you have a landing page that has a couple of scrolls worth of page content, have at least one other button on the page. A lot of people overlook that.

We also overlook the idea of design. With our software we give you a lot of templates which are already pre-designed for conversion. They’re not just designed to look good, they’re designed to convert. Having that is a real good advantage if you’re using something else or doing it on your own, just make sure you take into consideration the aesthetic, have it look good but make sure that all things are pointing toward those call to action buttons. So the people take the action.

Small Business Trends: What are some of the things that they have to do from a mobile perspective with modern landing pages?

Bob Jenkins: Just to emphasize your question, Facebook has about 1.8 billion users. 1.2 billion access it monthly on the phone. That gives you 60 to 70 percent of people are accessing landing pages on the phone because they’re going from social media or they’re clicking on an ad and they’re going to that mobile site. So everybody has to have mobile responsive pages. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

Building a website in a traditional website platform or an old school design, that’s just not mobile responsive. So you want to make sure that it’s responsive and even more than that, optimized. One of the things we love that we introduced to our builder a few months ago was the ability to hide or show sections based on what kind of device people are using. Not only are they responsive and look okay, you can read them, it’s not like you have to scroll left and right on the page and zoom in and zoom out, but you also have that ability to see the content as it should exist. So having mobile optimized pages is also an advantage.

One thing to note about that is the call to action button, again. Think about holding a phone. There’s only so much scrolling before somebody starts to give up. So a traditional landing page, even something that might be made from one of our pages initially, might not have the button above the fold on that first screen on a mobile device. It’s mobile responsive, it’ll still look good, but you might have to scroll a little bit to get to it. So thinking about how does the experience for mobile user differ from the desktop and have the button right away on the front where your thumbs going to be. You know, most people are right handed so have it very accessible to that right handed thumb, hopefully even across to the left as well for the left handers too.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little about speed. What’s the speed, the efficiency you really have to have before somebody just walks away?

Bob Jenkins: This is a very important question because Google is going to penalize search results if you’re not actually strong in the speed department. So if your page is not loading in two seconds, you’re going to be hurting. We want to get ours under one second and that’s the kind of thing we strive for. New users to around 760 to 800 milliseconds is what we’re seeing. Sometimes it’s a little longer or shorter depending on image sizes and things like that but it’s definitely a concern so not just on your mobile device through the high speed internet but how does it look on 3G, how does it look on internationally when you’re in places that might not have high speed internet. So that one second might be a little longer. But you want to make sure it’s under three or four seconds as much as possible.


This article, "Bob Jenkins of Leadpages: Most Small Businesses Still Don’t Believe They Need Landing Pages" was first published on Small Business Trends



Whether you need a website built entirely from scratch, or you already have one that requires an overall update, finding and choosing the right web designer can be a tricky business. Although most website and e-commerce platforms claim they’re easy to use even for the nontechnical folks, you’ll still need some design work if you want to avoid having a website that looks exactly the same as every other website on the internet. That said, here are 7 things you should know before hiring a web designer.

  1. Know exactly what you want

One of the most common mistakes business owners make when hiring a designer is not knowing what kind of website they want. Whether it’s a single page website used to host contact information, a blog dedicated to products and service announcements or an e-commerce store used to sell said products and services, you need to consider the purpose of your website before you even decide on hiring.

Some websites require frequent updates while others need to be updated once or twice a year. Once you’ve realized the type of website you want for your business, screening for potential candidates becomes a lot easier.

  1. Check out their portfolio and references

Always ask for a portfolio and additional references when reviewing potential candidates. A well-built portfolio speaks volumes about a designer’s expertise and allows you to determine whether their previous work matches your personal expectations.

References from the past and existing customers are always welcome as they not only provide information regarding previous work but also allow you to contact the previous employers and check out what kind of an experience they had with a particular designer.

  1. Look for designers who have worked on your preferred CMS or platform

Make sure you’re choosing a designer or a design firm which has some experience working with content management systems and platforms you have selected. Most design firms have partners that specialize in the type of work that often accompanies web design, such as development, hosting and security companies.

Going through the list of partners is an excellent way to check out the company’s validity and also provides additional, properly accredited references. If you’re unsure which platform is ideal for your business, make sure to pick a firm which can assist you in making that decision.

  1. Set a realistic budget

The cost of design work is determined by requirements of a particular project, such as the complexity of the design, preferred platform, number of pages and any additional functionality you want to have on your website.

Small business owners are often pressed for budget and although you can get a complete website for just a couple of hundreds of dollars, you have to realize that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. Pay less and you’re getting a website that will look like every other on the internet. Pay more, and you have a better chance of having a truly unique website.

  1. Find out who will be doing the job and where

Knowing who’s actually coding and designing your website and where they are from allows you to determine whether they are the right match for your team, but also helps avoid situations where you have to wait hours for an update due to different time zones. Not to mention some companies advertise as being the best in the business, when in fact, they’re outsourcing most of their work and are having it done for half the price you’re actually paying. Web developer Sydney experts advise that you always meet the designer in person, or at least speak with them using a video chat app such as Skype before deciding on hiring them.

  1. Find websites you like to serve as a reference point

Instead of using words to describe the graphic aspects you expect to see on your website, it may be better to spend a couple of hours looking for the design you like and making notes about what appeals to you the most. Whether it’s a specific color scheme, font type or an overall page design, this information will help you avoid any future misunderstandings with your designer and cut down both the costs and the time needed to finish the project.

  1. Learn the difference between designer and developer

Designers are artists in nature and their work centers around how the website will end up looking. Developers, on the other hand, are more concerned with the website’s purpose , or how it is supposed to work, as opposed to how it looks. There are, of course, individual and companies which work on both of these aspects, so make sure you’ve realized the purpose behind your website before you set your mind on hiring a potential candidate. Granted, a beautifully designed website has a better chance of attracting customers, but beauty is only skin deep and it’s always better to have a functional website that a pretty one.

Additionally, most design companies today also offer SEO and social media services. This is due to the fact that simply having a website does not guarantee that it will attract the necessary traffic. Hiring an individual or a company that offers both design and development, as well as SEO and social media management can help you avoid hiring multiple teams to work on the same website, as well as drastically cut down the expenses.

[Author: Ryan Burchey]



Is it Okay to Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip?

Business travel can be hard on a relationship when you’re frequently gone for days or weeks a time. But have you ever considered bringing your spouse along on one of your trips? It could be a nice break from the loneliness of solo travel — however, there are some things you should think about first.

Check With Your Boss Before You Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip

Secretly taking your spouse along with you without mentioning it to the folks paying for your trip is a terrible idea. With that being said, the very first thing you should take into account is the approval of your boss.

You should have a pretty good idea as to whether your boss will allow your spouse to travel with you or not. They obviously won’t pay for your spouse’s travel expenses and any extra accommodations (if they do, you’ve found a pretty fantastic company), but asking your boss if they can tag along isn’t a preposterous request for someone who has built up some credibility and trust.

Explain to your boss that you simply want some company and that your spouse won’t be a distraction. If anything, their presence will allow you to feel more relaxed and at home.

6 Tips for Making it Work

If you get the go-ahead, you don’t want to squander the opportunity by abusing your situation. The following tips should help you make the most of this chance to let your spouse tag along.

1. Set Expectations

It’s absolutely imperative that you set expectations for your spouse before you leave. Otherwise, they may feel left out and neglected, which can hinder your ability to be productive.

“It’s a work trip for one of you and your time will reflect that,” experienced business traveler Jesse Ghiorzi says. “You can do your best to spend time with your partner, but prepare yourselves to be apart and view the time together as a bonus.”

In other words, make sure your spouse knows that business trips do in fact involve work. You aren’t just traveling to grab lunch with a client and then enjoy two or three days of sightseeing. You’re most likely there to do two or three days of work and then grab an occasional meal with your spouse. As long as they know this ahead of time, everything should be fine.

2. Plan for Fun on the Bookends

One popular technique savvy business travelers use is booking leisure time on the front or back end of a trip. They either go a couple of days early or stay a couple of days late — using vacation time to compensate for these days. In fact, one study says 72 percent of travelers have extended a business trip with a leisure component.

You’ll obviously have to coordinate this with your company, but most won’t object to letting you schedule an earlier or later flight (so long as the price is comparable).

3. Give Your Spouse Something to Do

While we’ve discussed the importance of setting expectations, that doesn’t mean you should just leave your spouse in the hotel room all week waiting for you to finish work. It’s a good idea to give them something to do. This will help them have a good time and see the city while you’re taking care of your responsibilities.

Since your spouse is probably limited by a lack of transportation — especially if there’s no rental car, or the car is in your name — you can help them find things to do within the vicinity of the hotel. If you’re in a big city, a local walking tour of the city is one great option. (Hint: You can generally find free tours in most major cities.) Other good ideas include taking a jog through a local park, visiting museums, and checking out coffee shops.

4. Be Careful With Expenses

You can obviously spend as much of your own money as you want on a business trip, but be very careful when it comes to bringing your spouse along. Your company will pay for most of your obligatory expenses — food, transportation, etc. — but they probably aren’t going to cover your spouse’s spending.

In order to avoid slipping up, make sure you both pay for your own things throughout the week. Even if you both go enjoy a nice dinner, pay for your meal and let your spouse pay for their meal. It’s much easier this way and you won’t run the risk of mixing things up.

5. Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

When you travel by yourself, you probably have a pretty normal routine. You get up early, grab breakfast in the hotel lobby, go to whatever meetings or work-related responsibilities you have, enjoy a relaxing dinner, and head back to the hotel room for some sleep. But when you have a spouse along, you often feel the pressure to do something after you get off work. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking in the sights and enjoying your time together, don’t push yourself too hard. Rest is important and you have to prioritize work over everything else.

6. Don’t Go Together All the Time

For most couples, going on business trips together isn’t something that should happen all the time. It’s best when you do it occasionally as a way of breaking up the monotony of travel. Do it too much and you risk getting overly comfortable and forgetting the major focus of the trip.

Finding Work-Life Balance

One of the keys to a healthy career is finding some work-life balance. While this often requires compromise, there are some unique situations in which you can blend things and have surprisingly positive results — business travel included.

By bringing your spouse along with you on a business trip, you get the opportunity to enjoy special experiences together. It won’t work for every couple, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Couple Traveling Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Is it Okay to Bring Your Spouse on a Business Trip?" was first published on Small Business Trends



10-Second Looks at Marketing Through Snapchat Spectacles

Snapchat spectacles were introduced last year as a means to take very short videos to post to Snapchat. Reactions to the glasses were pretty strong; the spectacles were in demand, but not easy to come by. But what about now? Are these devices something that businesses should pursue, or are they a technological oddity? To find out how important these wearable cameras will be in the future, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council:

“Do you see Snapchat Spectacles being a game-changer for small business marketing? If so, how?”

Marketing Through Snapchat Spectacles

Here’s what they had to say:

1. Spectacles Can Keep Customers Entertained and Informed

“Snap’s Spectacles allow small businesses to easily give their consumers an inside look at day-to-day operations, special events or behind the scenes. Every business can find at least one very unique angle to leverage to draw attention. Small- and medium-sized businesses can use Spectacles as a way to keep their current customer base entertained and informed, as well as attract a new audience. The key is creativity.” ~ Jonathan LongSexy Smile Kit

2. The Devices Are Fun for a While, but Not Game Changing

“Spectacles are not a must-have for small business marketing. For businesses with a younger audience demographic, Spectacles are a fun addition to social campaigns that make a business seem more innovative and accessible. However, the regular Snapchat app works just as well for most marketing purposes.” ~ Adelyn ZhouTOPBOTS

3. Not Until Snapchat Figures Out Their Advertising Platform

“To this point, Snapchat does not seem too concerned with appealing to small businesses when it comes to advertising. Spectacles may provide a slightly easier way for businesses to film, although there are plenty of cool devices you can already use such as 360 cameras. It will not be a game changer unless they change the way you can advertise the content that you create.” ~ Scott Kacmarski, Reps Direct

4. Spectacles Give Followers a First-Person Look

“Snapchat Spectacles allow followers to truly immerse themselves in the users’ perspective. No matter how big or small your business is, whether you’re making deliveries or showing followers a day at the office, with Spectacles you’re making the ordinary look much more extraordinary with a first-person point of view. For 0, you can’t beat that!” ~ Solomon ThimothyOneIMS

5. They Might Work for Some Niches

“I don’t see Snapchat Spectacles having a huge impact on small business marketing. It’s a cool device, but I don’t think it does anything for video marketing that a GoPro or any other small camera can’t do — there is no shortage of convenient cameras of much higher quality. But I’m not Snapchat’s target demographic, so I’m prepared to be surprised here.” ~ Vik PatelFuture Hosting

6. This Too Will Phase Out

“Much like Google Glasses, it was a “cool trend” but never really hit mainstream. Snapchat has a great following, but most people aren’t going to want to wear the glasses or bring another outside component into their lives. As for business use, this will also be decided on by how well Spectacles are adopted by the general public.” ~ Zac Johnson, Blogger

7. Wearables Are Something to Watch

“Snapchat Spectacles won’t be game-changing unless you’re invested in Snapchat as a marketing platform, but they are an important indicator of a trend small businesses should pay attention to. Wearables, coupled with augmented reality, are going to have a huge impact in the coming years, creating marketing and business opportunities that are worth exploring now.” ~ Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc.

8. Snapchat Platform Works Better for Big Businesses

“Unfortunately, Snapchat Spectacles won’t make an impact for small businesses. Already, Snapchat has proven to be a platform that works best for big business, while small businesses thrive using Instagram stories. The addition of Snapchat Spectacles to the photo sharing marketplace is definitely an interesting step forward, but we feel its impact will be seen more in personal use than for business.” ~ Kevin YamazakiSidebench

9. This System Will Lead to Innovation

“I don’t think it will change business, but I do think it will impact how competitors innovate. Instagram has already moved in on Snapchat territory, and messaging apps are now a dime a dozen. We’re going to see companies learn from the mistakes Snapchat makes and come up with better ideas.” ~ Ismael WrixenFE International

10. Snapchat Spectacles Are Convenient, but They’re Not Special

“As they currently exist, Snapchat Spectacles are simply making it more convenient to produce content for Snapchat. While the excitement might attract more people to the platform, the Spectacles do not add any additional value. How much of an impact they have on individual businesses will really depend on who your market is and whether or not they already use Snapchat. Overall, not a game changer.” ~ Kyle GoguenPawstruck

Snapchat Button Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10-Second Looks at Marketing Through Snapchat Spectacles" was first published on Small Business Trends



Google Noindex Advice

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) recently suggested more steps toward eliminating duplicate content across the web. And website owners, including small business owners, may want to pay attention considering the search engine has a history of eventually penalizing sites for not taking heed.

Google Noindex Advice

Specifically, websites currently republishing content sourced from original authors are now encouraged to “noindex” that content. This Google noindex advice is something most content creators are unlikely to follow.

In a fight to rank on the top page of Google, specifically the top five search results, websites —  including major news outlets — often republish popular articles. Applying noindex to all of these syndicated articles would solve one of Google’s biggest headaches — duplicate content. But so far, the reward for doing so seems too high.

Overload of Duplicate Content

Currently just about every major news source including: NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, MSNBC, Fox News and others are simply re-posting content without applying noindex. The content generally comes from syndicated news sources like the Associated Press or Reuters.

Search any headline in Google and you will undoubtedly get thousands of sources with identical content, writes SEO expert Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable. Ironically enough, the top search results are often not the original source. Nevertheless, the majority of websites will continue this practice in search of the reward of high-traffic to their web address.

In a recent Twitter exchange on a related topic, Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller suggested sites should not be marking such context for index by the search engine:

Marking Content Noindex Means No Traffic from Google

Noindexing is pretty much the opposite of what most websites want  to do.

The noindexing tag is an HTML value applied to content for the purpose of keeping search engines from ranking it. It’s applied on the backend of web administration and is normally used for private data or files linked to large databases.

This of course is bad news for websites that make their living —  at least in part — from republishing content. And small business website owners who try to make up for a lack of original content on their sites with republished articles from other sources should be concerned too.

This is not the first time that Google has pushed to remove excessive duplicate content from the web. It also seems likely that the search engine will eventually respond with an algorithm change that downgrades sites with too much of this content.  In the meantime, however, the noindex step seems something Google is simply requesting of webmasters.

Google Wants a World Without Duplicate Content

Whether it’s practical at the moment or not, it’s clear that Google’s ideal is web where only one copy of each piece of content is indexed for ranking on the search engine.

Although, it may take some time for that to happen, websites and content creators would be wise to evolve their business models.

In the future of the web, those with original content will not only rule — they’ll likely be the only ones left.

Copy Machine Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Google Says Websites Shouldn’t Mark Republished Content for Index" was first published on Small Business Trends



Oxford Comma Business Cartoon

So this is a fairly normal cartoon. You take a phrase, play with the language, add a little surprise. Standard issue.

Unfortunately, upon taking another look at it, I noticed that while someone snuck in a however, I apparently left out a few commas. The caption should read “We did it, no ifs, ands, or buts. But …”

As a huge proponent of the Oxford comma, my apologies.

This article, "The Firm’s Success Did Not Come Without Setbacks" was first published on Small Business Trends



3 Budgeting Tips for Freelancers

Alysse Dalessandro doesn’t have a conventional budget. This is in part because she doesn’t have a steady income. The Ohio-based writer is a full-time freelancer.

Her situation isn’t unique. Roughly 55 million Americans freelance, and 25 percent report doing so full time, according to a 2016 survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union.“I don’t know when my money is going to come. I don’t know if it’s going to come sometimes,” Dalessandro says. “So a traditional budget doesn’t work for me.”

Budgeting Tips for Freelancers

Irregular paychecks make budgeting difficult, but they also make it essential. These tips can help freelancers and contractors create workable spending plans.

1. Track Your Cash Flow

Those with a regular paycheck often know their monthly income to the penny. For freelancers, it’s more of a guessing game.

Dalessandro makes that game easier by recording each assignment, the date she invoiced her client and if and when the invoice was paid. That way no money falls through the cracks.

“I try to be really conscious of where the money is, where it ends up and making sure that I’m putting money aside,” Dalessandro says. “There was a time I was paycheck to paycheck, and that’s freelance paycheck to paycheck, which is scarier.”

While Dalessandro keeps records of all her business expenses, she’s not great about logging personal ones.

“I do that all in my head and I wouldn’t advise that,” Dalessandro says. “People use planners for a reason.”

Robert Reed, a partner at Partnership Financial LLC, a financial planning firm in Columbus, Ohio, says tracking outgoing money is as important as tracking what’s coming in.

“People quite often don’t know what they spend or more importantly, what they spend it on,” Reed says. “You need to know how much it costs you to live.”

2. Set Financial Priorities

The 50/30/20 budget is a good way to allocate your income, even if that income is irregular. Using this model, you’d spend 50% of your income on needs, such as housing, insurance, food, transportation. Take care of fixed expenses, including your car payment and rent or mortgage, as soon as money comes in to ensure they’re paid on time. Then you’re free to spend 30% of your income on wants, such as clothing or a gym membership. The remaining 20% goes toward savings and debt payments.

Dalessandro tries to save 50% of her income each month. That 50% goes to her emergency fund and her tax fund, a must-have for freelancers and contractors, who are responsible for paying quarterly estimated income taxes.

Whatever Dalessandro has left after paying bills and saving is her spending money — and sometimes even that goes into savings.

In 2016, for example, she saved $1,522 for a trip to Italy using the 52-week challenge. Each week, she put money into a jar. The amount corresponded with the week, so she put $1 in during the first week, $2 during the second week, and so on until week 52. Every dollar came from her spending money.

“This worked for me because it forced me to save money I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she says, adding that once the money was in the jar, it was out of play. “I was really, really good about not touching the money.”

3. Keep It Simple

“I’m a big believer in baby steps,” Reed says. “Starting off and setting up some complicated tracking system never works out.”

So skip the complicated software. Instead, start with a simple spreadsheet or free service — something you can stick with.

Level Money is a great bare-bones budgeting app that shows how much you have to spend at any given moment. Mint allows you to track spending and pay bills, and alerts users to low funds and due dates. Both are free and offer a good starting point.

Dalessandro says her system works for her. She’s never paid a bill late and she’s setting money aside.

“You’re told unless you create this perfect budget, that’s the only way you can save. That is overwhelming,” she says. “I think you need to meet yourself where you are.”

Republished by permission. Original here.

Budgeting Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How To Manage Your Budget as a Freelancer" was first published on Small Business Trends



NEW YORK (AP) " Small business owners' optimism about the economy has turned around dramatically since before the election, according to a survey released by Bank of America.The number of owners expecting the national economy to...

[Author: [email protected]]



Personal crises happen all the time and take many forms. Perhaps you or a loved one gets ill, or a natural disaster puts you out of operation for days. Whatever the cause, a personal crisis is one of the most challenging scenarios a small business owner can face, often resulting in lost work, lost
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It takes many things to start and run a successful small business: passion, determination, discipline, and the right people, but the best-laid plans will go nowhere without one key ingredient-cash. The way you manage your cash flow can make or break your business and affect your ability to grow.
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With a myriad of point of sale systems and software available, how do small businesses choose the right one their own specific needs? Small Business Trends has identified 25 point of sale systems small businesses could benefit from.
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http://www.productiveflourishing.com/saving

“Our stress is that actually finishing the work we’re meant to do is even more important than it’s ever been; our salvation is that we’re happiest when we’re actually finishing the work we’re meant to do.” – Charlie Gilkey, “Welcome to Project World

If you live in Project World and finishing the projects you are meant to do creates less stress and more happiness, then finding ways to finish that work even faster sounds like a pretty great idea. The good news is, you can boost your project finishing powers in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Linking your projects to the “why” of your business
  • Fitting the projects into the annual plans for both your business and your life
  • Organizing each project into monthly, weekly, and daily goals, milestones, and tasks
  • Breaking down each project into smaller chunks
  • Working in creative blocks or using various creativity tips and tricks to complete the tasks for each project

However, there is one method of finishing projects faster that is often overlooked: setting aside money for them.

Most productivity tips and methods focus on planning, executing, and managing your time. What these techniques leave out is planning for the transition time between your projects: the time it takes you to go from finishing one project to starting a new one. The way you manage your money can either reduce this time to zero or slow the transition (and your next project) to a crawl.

Two types of project costs have an immediate impact on your money: expenses and time.

  • Expenses use up your funds to cover the costs associated with making the current project a reality. For example, you might have editing and design costs for an ebook project.
  • Time spent on the project uses up hours that could be spent making money in other ways. When you’re writing your ebook (or doing the graphic design yourself), you’re not providing services that produce income.

As I mentioned in How Failing to Budget Can Kill Your Productivity,  most productivity systems leave out the essential step of ensuring that you have the money needed to implement your plans. And when you don’t know whether you can afford to fund your projects, doubt starts to creep in, you begin second-guessing your decisions, and you delay the start of your next project.

Budgeting for your projects is one of the best ways to speed them up. If you know how you will cover your project costs, or at least some of them, you will spend less time worrying, will have more confidence in your decisions, and can start the next project sooner and be that much closer to finishing. This is also one of the reasons why there’s a lesson on budgeting in Start Finishing Your Projects.

Luckily, there is a simple step you can take that will allow you to cover your project costs and to transition between, and finish, projects more quickly. That step is to set money aside specifically for future projects.

If this step is so simple, why do we neglect it? To understand that, let’s look at how project funding works in many small businesses.

Project Funding As Usual

Successfully completing your projects means that you need to plan them from beginning to middle to end. Luckily, Productive Flourishing provides some of the best tools to help you with organizing successful projects and slotting them into your annual plan. (You can get started with free tools here.)

Once you have your projects sequenced and planned, you switch your focus to the project right in front of you and begin working that project to completion. Here’s what that process typically looks like:

You start working on Project A. You have Projects B, C, and D set to go, but they don’t happen for months, so you set them aside to free up mental space and increase focus. You start diverting cash flow to cover the costs of Project A, while still covering regular operating expenses.

Then you complete Project A, and it is time to start on Project B. This is where everything starts to slow down as you begin looking at:

  • how much money you have in your business accounts
  • how the financial costs of Project B will affect cash flow
  • how the creative time needed for Project B will limit cash flow

You start to wonder if you can afford to even start Project B, never mind take the time to finish it.

The challenge: You have planned your projects, but you haven’t planned your finances to support them.

The solution: Work on present projects while saving for future projects.

Why does this solution work? First, let’s look at the usual small-business budget.

The Usual Small-Business Budget

The usual small-business budget is great at focusing on everything but supporting future projects. These budgets include things like:

  • monthly operating expenses (cell phone, Internet, subscriptions, etc.)
  • owner’s pay (hopefully)
  • payroll for employees or contractors (if you have any)
  • taxes (hopefully)
  • yearly expenses (domain names, website costs, insurance, professional fees, etc.)
  • supplies and inventory
  • office rental and storage rental

All of these categories are important (they’ll vary by type and complexity of business), and they are required for successfully running your business, but they are not helping you with what is most important to reducing your stress and experiencing happiness:

These categories are not helping you finish.

What you need is a new business budget category that focuses on only one thing: finishing projects faster.

Saving for Future Projects

Saving for future projects doesn’t have to be difficult.

5%

This is all it takes to start reducing your project transition time, reducing your stress, and increasing your happiness.

Every time you receive money in your business, take 5% of that income and put it into a separate bank account, or track it on a spreadsheet.

If you can save more, great. If 5% doesn’t seem possible, save whatever percentage you can. The key is to make sure you are always turning some of your “now money” into “future money” that will be waiting to support you financially when you finish one project and are ready to start another.

Each and every time you add money to that future-project savings account, you make it easier to stop worrying about the two big costs of starting a new project: the money needed to cover direct expenses and the time you will spend working on the project.

Your project transition time changes. Now, when you complete Project A and are ready to start on Project B, you transition between projects smoothly by looking at:

  • how much money you have in your business accounts, including the money in your future-project savings account that is waiting to support you
  • how the financial costs of Project B will affect the combination of your future-project savings account and your current cash flow
  • how the creative time needed for Project B can be supported by the money in your future-project savings account

You start Project B with the confidence that your money is supporting you, and you move closer to the final goal of finishing.

Even if you are unable to save all of the money you need to support your next project, having some “future money” will help you push back doubts and begin Project B feeling more secure than you would if you had to depend solely on your “now money.”

Business Example: Pivoting into a New Business

About two years ago, I started thinking about changing the focus of my business and starting The Secure Entrepreneur. This was going to be a huge project, and I knew that if I didn’t have the money to support it, I would never get started.

I decided to go big with saving for the Secure Entrepreneur project, so I cut back on my monthly and yearly expenses and began saving 10-20% of all my business income to put toward that project. Approximately one year ago, I had saved $9807.91 when I decided to pivot and start The Secure Entrepreneur. Having this money waiting in a bank account to help cover all the new business expenses made transitioning into the new project an easier and faster decision.

In the past year, I have had a lengthy list of future projects for the Secure Entrepreneur , and I reduced the amount I set aside for future projects to 5%-10% of my income, but still managed to save $5736.26. This money not only enabled me to complete several projects for The Secure Entrepreneur – building a new website, writing and publishing an ebook, creating and selling online courses, paying for coaching and consulting, and upgrading technology – but also made each project easier to start and finish.

Personal Example: Even Small Amounts Add Up

Saving for future projects works in both your business and your personal life. Ashlea, my wife, is planning on taking her Masters in Education in the next couple of years. Ashlea’s project will have a hefty price tag (probably $30K plus), and this huge expense could hold Ashlea back from starting this project. That is a lot of debt for our family.

However, we started planning a budget for Ashlea’s Masters about three years ago, diverting 5% of my business income, every time I got paid, into a Masters savings account. These 5% deposits range from only $1.75 up to around $175. Those amounts are a mere pittance when compared to the full expected cost of $30,000.

You might think it wouldn’t be worth the effort to transfer amounts as low as $1.75 to a savings account – but you’d be wrong. We currently have over $17,000 saved for Ashlea’s Masters Program.

This is why saving for future projects works: each small deposit adds up, becoming a small win and, over time, making a big difference.

Once Ashlea feels ready to enroll, we won’t need to pause and ask, “How are we going to pay for this?” or “Can you take time off to study?” We will have the answer, and Ashlea will be able to start finishing her education right away.

Start Saving for Future Projects Now

Wherever you are in your business, now is a perfect time to start your Future-Project Savings Account:

Client payment * 0.05 = Amount deposited in your Future-Project Savings Account

That’s it — nothing complicated or tricky.

Save 5% of the money you are making now towards funding your future projects.

Cut down on financial doubts when you are transitioning between projects.

Speed up your ability to finish projects.

Reach the final goal: reduce stress and increase your happiness in Project World.

The post Use the 5% Saving Rule To Finish Projects Faster appeared first on Productive Flourishing.



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How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium

As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your business. And while the things that go on behind the scenes certainly matter, you can’t focus on them at the expense of your relationships with customers.

Small Businesses Are Built on Relationships

When people think about small businesses, a certain image is conjured up in their minds. They picture a quaint storefront on a main street in a small town. They see friendly storeowners who know customers by their first names and interact with them as they walk in. They picture handshakes, smiles, and promises that are always honored.

See, small businesses are all about interpersonal relations. They thrive on connections and conversations. But somewhere along the way, companies moved away from the heart of small business. With so many different forces and distractions competing for attention, small businesses have started spending less time focusing on relationships and more time dealing with “important” administrative tasks and responsibilities.

The problem with this shift in small business management is that nothing is more important than customer relationships. While payroll, accounting, digital marketing, website analytics, paid media, hiring, and training matter, they can’t take away from the focus on customer relationships. As soon as relationships erode, the business follows closely behind.

Do yourself a favor and conduct a quick analysis on your small business. Are you so wrapped up in the day-to-day tasks and managerial responsibilities that you’re no longer fostering healthy relationships with new and existing customers?

If this is the case, you aren’t alone. It’s an epidemic in the business world and you’ll find thousands of other business owners in the same boat. However, at some point, you have to make the conscious decision to get out of the boat and return to what made you successful: relationships.

4 Ways to Strengthen Customer Relationships

You can’t snap your fingers and wish your way into stronger customer relationships. What you need is a customer relations strategy that targets particular weaknesses in your business and builds on the strengths that you already have. And while every business will have different needs and action steps, the following tips should provide you with a solid footing on which you can build for the future.

1. Use CRM Software

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term used to describe the handy tools small businesses utilize to streamline the management and nurturing of customer relationships.

“It’s usually a cloud-based system that stores information about your clients, potential clients and contacts in one central safe place that everyone in your team can access and update wherever they are,” small business expert Nadia Finer says. “A CRM can also help you grow your business and keep customers happy by keeping track of interactions and tasks, and giving you a clear view of your sales pipeline.”

What Finer is really getting at is this: CRM makes it easier to manage customer relationships when you don’t have the time to manually handle every task.

As a general principle, most businesses extract 70-80 percent of their profits from 20-30 percent of their customers. One way to maximize the value of your CRM system is to use the built-in analytics tools to keep track of who your most valuable customers are.

As marketing manager Christopher Meloni explains it, “This sort of tracking, with the help of your CRM software, will in-turn enable you to allocate your resources in such a manner that those 20-30% of your customers get the best customer service, always. This is called target-based allocation, and it can prove wonders for you and your business organization.”

CRM can also be used to help you handle customer complaints in a swift manner. By delivering fast responses, you can deal with problems as they arise (instead of letting them fester). Other valuable uses – depending on the CRM system you use – include the ability to analyze customer buying patterns, send out automatic updates, and keep track of who customers are and how they’re likely to respond in certain situations.

2. Invest in Business Intelligence

Are you currently invested in business intelligence? This is the fastest developing trend in small business and you have to make it a priority if you stand any chance of acquiring and maintaining a base of loyal customers that continue to come back time after time.

“Business intelligence for small business helps to gather data about your customers’ behavior and structure it in a clear form so that it can be analyzed fast and easy,” explains Heiko Troster of datapine. “With insights about your customers’ behavior you can make effective business decisions.”

Data is the ammunition of your communicative efforts. When you understand who your customers are and what they want, you can effectively forecast needs and satisfy their desires. You still have to strategically act on the information you have, but at least business intelligence tools can provide you with valuable data that you’d otherwise miss out on.

3. Gather More Information on Customers

Customers want to be known as more than an invoice number or receipt. They want to be seen as individuals with personal lives, needs, and sensitivities. When you have advanced CRM and business intelligence tools in place, you can tactfully gather more information on your customers and gain a fuller picture of who they are and what their needs are. This will benefit you in the long run by allowing you to interact with customers on an individual basis.

4. Reshape Your Social Media Strategy

What does your current social media strategy look like? If you haven’t made a conscious effort over the years to make your social media presence about your followers, then your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles are probably self-serving. All of the content you post is about your brand and you aren’t adding any real value to your customers. Sound familiar?

If the goal is to strengthen customer relationships, you’ll need to reshape your social media strategy and make it less about you and more about them. Make it an avenue for two-way conversations to take place.

“Unlike a one-way conversation where a company typically dominates the narrative and doesn’t really acknowledge or interact with visitors/followers , a two-way conversation directly connects brands and consumers,” says Carolyn Edgecomb of IMPACT. “A two-conversation is a dialogue, where brands speak and listen to their audience, responding directly to their wants and needs.”

The classic rule of thumb is that 80 percent of your social media posts should add value to your brand without directly promoting your products and services. Try your best to meet this goal.

Make More Time for Customers

Forging strong relationships with customers takes effort. But thanks to the technologies you now have available to you – such as CRM systems, business intelligence tools, and social media – it doesn’t have to require a ton of time.

Now’s the time to create a game plan for success. How are you going to handle the many needs of your company without compromising on the customer relationship front? It’ll take some trial and error, but you can find a solution.

Business Woman Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Strengthen Customer Relationships When Time is at a Premium" was first published on Small Business Trends



Example of a Simple Innovation

Not all new innovations need to be expensive, high-tech products. As one entrepreneur recently showed, you can solve some seemingly complicated problems with a more simplified approach.

Example of a Simple Innovation

Kavita Shukla is the founder of FreshPaper, a product that is intended to help food stay fresh longer. But it’s not a complicated, technical gadget. It’s simply a piece of paper infused with spices that you can put anywhere you store produce.

And although this business aims to take on a pretty serious world problem, Shukla didn’t need to put much into the product initially. She started with less than $500 and created the product in the kitchen of her studio apartment. And now, FreshPaper ships to farmers and families in 35 different countries around the world.

Food waste due to spoilage is a huge problem in many parts of the world. And organizations and startups have spent tons of money trying to innovate new ways to keep food from going to waste. But this product shows that sometimes answers to big problems can be solved simply — by entrepreneurs with a flash of inspiration.

In fact, FreshPaper was inspired by a home remedy from Shukla’s grandmother. So even when your business is trying to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem, remember the lesson from this example of a simple innovation: the answer might actually be simpler than you think.

Image: Fenugreen

This article, "Entrepreneur Launches Global Business in Her Kitchen with Less Than $500" was first published on Small Business Trends



SEO is important, and if you’re not using the right SEO tips and tricks for your small business, it will be difficult for you to compete with others.

So, we have made a list of local SEO tips for small businesses that should help you improve your online business presence.

14 Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses

#1. Use both on-site as well as off-site SEO

If you want to achieve good results, you cannot be dependent on adding the right keywords, having a unique and descriptive title, improving content, analyzing inbound link profile, etc. The importance of on-site SEO will always remain, but at the same time, you need off-site SEO. You need to be sure that you have a great content marketing strategy in place while opting for getting listed in good directories, writing press releases and opting for other off-site SEO methods.

#2. Know your competition

Randomly selecting good keywords will not get you success. You need to find out what sites are ranking on the first page for specific keywords and whether you’re in a position to compete with them or not.

#3. Wait for the results to show up

SEO results are not instant, and you need to be patient with the process. Depending on the type of keywords you have selected and campaign you have set up, you should give the SEO expert enough time to deliver to results they are working on.

#4. Choose an experienced SEO firm

SEO company that caters to your local needs is a Priority here. Apart from this, you need to be sure that the selected firm is experienced and offers SEO services in your budget.

Remember that I see you are not always expensive. You can get big results even when you’re on a tight budget. So, invest time in finding we write SEO company and build your business relationship with them.

#5. AdWords campaign

You can boost your SEO with Google AdWords. It is a fact that you cannot survive in the world of online business if you’re not visible on Google. For this, Google AdWords campaign will help you achieve your business goals.

So, make sure that the company you choose have adequate knowledge about AdWords and caters to your needs accordingly.

#6. Get an understanding of the latest updates and revise your strategies accordingly

SEO is not this headache of your selected expert only. You need to put in your efforts even if you want to get the desired results. We have seen cases where some of the most successful businesses have failed because of the algorithm change, and so it is important to get the message any updates and adapt your SEO strategy accordingly.

These updates are also important because it will help you learn about the penalties that are imposed upon websites by search engines.

#7. Compromising on the quality of content and back link is not advisable

Content matters and you’ll need it on a regular basis. However, don't think that compromising on the quality factor will help you survive. Any compromise in this section will lead to risks of being penalized by search engines. At the same time, duplicate content should also be removed from multiple pages of your site to avoid any risk.

Apart from content, low-quality backlinks can even make things difficult for you. Make sure that you get backlinks from trusted sources only.

#8. Engaging and interesting content

Posting content just for the sake of posting it is not a smart move. People will be directed to your website if you have something interesting for them and so it is important to scrutinize each and every aspect of your content. If it is an image or video, make sure that the clarity of the same is maintained. High-quality images and videos are attractive, and it motivates people to share your content even.

Increasing content means your visit us will stay on your website for a little longer and it will increase the viewing time. High viewing times are signals for search engines that your site should move up in the rankings.

#9. Long tail keywords can help you

Many people forget that long tail keywords have the potential to generate traffic to your website in a quicker and cheaper way as compared to general keywords targeted by everyone in your field.

Many people avoid long tail keywords because they think that it is difficult to place a keyword phrase. It can be difficult at times, but it is not impossible. So, start targeting long tail keywords and enjoy the benefits of the same.

#10. Social sharing buttons should be added to your website

This is important because it allows people to share your content on various social networking sites easily. So, add social sharing buttons to your website.

#11. Simple, clear URL structure

If people are not in a position to guess the topic of the page simply by looking at the URL, you’re making things difficult for your visitors.

#12. Use a web hosting company that is reliable

Your site's ranking will be affected if visitors are unable to access it. If your site is regularly inaccessible, your site's keyword ranking will also be downgraded. So, make sure that you use a reliable web hosting company.

#13. Backup your website regularly

Losing site data can result in losing rankings. So, make sure that you regularly backup your website.

#14. Reviewing your strategy on a regular basis

Having an SEO strategy is a must but don't forget that review of the same is equally important. It is possible that you had teamed up with your SEO expert and formed a strategy that was good enough for your start, but as time progresses; you need to be sure that necessary changes are being made to keep you at par with the changes.

Reviewing the strategy will also help you know whether the SEO expert you have selected is effective with the process or not.



 

LinkedIn Reaches the 500 Million User Mark

LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) has hit a major milestone. The social media site just hit the half-billion user mark.

That’s right — 500 million users. Further, there are now 9 million businesses actively on the site.

The power of this community benefits a global audience, allowing businesses and their perspective employees and clients to connect like never before.

LinkedIn Reaches the 500 Million User Mark

“We now have half a billion members in 200 countries connecting, and engaging with one another in professional conversations and finding opportunities through these connections on LinkedIn,” the company says in a statement.

LinkedIn continues to lead the professional sector of social media. Since being acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion, LinkedIn has added features that are tailored to businesses. For instance, the LinkedIn Small Business area of the site provides resources in three key areas: branding, marketing, sales, and hiring.

Branding

The vast network of users creates an audience for business to tell their unique story. Considered the Facebook of business, LinkedIn creates a platform to showcase your business model as well as the faces behind the scene.

Marketing

With a pool of 500 million users and more than 9 million business, the marketing potential within LinkedIn is huge. Marketing campaigns have the potential to create more meaningful relationships when compared to standard methods.

Sales

The LinkedIn space creates an unspoken environment of trust. Transactions are initiated on an even playing field with direct access to customers and decision makers.

Your business can use the LinkedIn Sales Navigator to create filters and reach your chosen prospects.

Hiring

Recruiting is where LinkedIn shines and the basis of its platform. With the new milestone of half a billion users, you’re guaranteed to find the right candidate.

LinkedIn’s blog publishes more than 100,000 articles every week, making it a one-stop resource worthy for small businesses to visit.

These are just some of the services available to small businesses on LinkedIn. Are you one of the half-billion active users on LinkedIn? When is the last time you logged in to the site? And is your small business or brand active on the site?

Image: LinkedIn

This article, "LinkedIn Reaches 500 Million User Mark; 9 Million Businesses Use Site" was first published on Small Business Trends



It takes a lot for a business to reinvent itself, but that's exactly what Deluxe Corp. (NYSE: DLX) has been doing. For years, Deluxe was the go-to provider of paper checks, but as payment systems have evolved, the growth prospects for that business have dwindled. In response, Deluxe has moved aggressively into a wider range of business services, and that has provided a better opportunity to capture long-term growth.

Coming into Thursday's first-quarter financial report, Deluxe shareholders were prepared to accept modest sales gains and a slight retrenchment on the company's bottom line. Instead, Deluxe gave shareholders better results than they were expecting, and strength in the company's business customer base appears to be driving the company forward more quickly than expected. Let's take a closer look at Deluxe to see how it did and what's ahead.

Image source: Deluxe.

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[Author: [email protected] (Dan Caplinger)]



The structure of the Trump organization makes it a prime potential beneficiary – one estimate says the tax plan will save Donald Trump $65m a year in taxes

A tax plan released by the White House on Wednesday could deliver many millions of dollars annually in tax savings to Donald Trump personally under the guise of helping small businesses, multiple tax experts have told the Guardian.

Related: Trump under fire over 'huge tax cut for the rich'

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National Small Business Week 2017 Events

This year, National Small Business Week takes place from April 30 through May 6. And there are tons of different events, contests and other celebrations scheduled throughout the week.

The U.S. Small Business Administration hosts many of the events. But other businesses and communities throughout the country also celebrate with their own contests, luncheons, promotions and more.

National Small Business Week 2017 Events

The list below includes events from the SBA and more. You can see if there’s anything of interest in your local area or online. We’re also going to add to the list throughout the week. So keep checking back for even more Small Business Week opportunities.

Sunday, April 30 “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” Workshop

From Google and NectarSpot Marketing and Design Company, this workshop will focus on how businesses can use online tools, like those from Google, to make their offerings more visible to local consumers online. The event takes place from 1 PM to 4:30 PM CT in Naperville, Ill.

Monday, May 1 NSBW Awards Luncheon

In Washington, DC, the SBA kicks off National Small Business Week with an awards luncheon on Monday from 11:30 AM to 2 PM ET. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will announce the National Small Business Person of the year, along with other awards.

From Birth to Legacy: Creating a Business with Lasting Impact

Taking place from 8:30 AM to noon PT, this free workshop takes place at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. and features multiple sessions all focused on building a business that sticks around for the long haul. The city also hosts a number of other events at City Hall through the rest of the day.

Tuesday, May 2 Facebook Live with SBA Administrator Linda McMahon

For those who are more interested in online events, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan will chat on Facebook Live on May 2 from 11:30 AM to noon ET. The conversation will center around how to build a successful business. And you can even submit your own questions for consideration.

Oakland Retailers and Restaurants

In Oakland, Calif., this event focuses on highlighting the city’s shopping and dining scene. It will also include information about current trends, best practices and opportunities for those local businesses.

Legal Issues for Businesses

Another event put on by the City of Oakland, this event takes place at City Hall and shares some information about the legal issues that impact all different types of small businesses.

Grow Your Business Online Workshop

In Nashua, N.H., the Neighborhood Merchant Alliance and Donation Network puts on this event aimed at helping small businesses use SEO, online advertising and other tools to help them gain visibility.

The U.S. Economic Outlook and Its Impact on Small Businesses

Hosted by SCORE, this webinar features Visa Economist Jay Hawkins and a discussion about the current state of the U.S. economy and how it can impact small businesses going forward. You can register for the event online. And it starts at 2 PM ET.

Wednesday, May 3 National Small Business Week Road Tour Kick-Off

This year, the National Small Business Week road tour makes its first stop on May 3 in Indianapolis, Ind. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will be on site to honor local businesses. And the event will take place from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM ET.

Oakland Makers & Artists Day

This networking event takes place at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. and features opportunities for artists and makers to share ideas, resources and more. The event is free and features several different sessions all aimed at helping artists and creative business owners thrive.

5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions

This informative webinar from SCORE focuses on the habits that can help local business owners gain success. It takes place for about an hour starting at 2 PM ET. And you can register for the free event online.

Grow Your Business Online

Another webinar from SCORE, this event offers tips about connecting with customers online. Starting at 4 PM ET, the webinar features by Anastasia Kudrez, Speaker at Google’s Get Your Business Online.

Thursday, May 4 National Small Business Week Road Tour Stop

Then, the National Small Business Week road tour will make its next stop on May 4 in Arlington, Texas. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will visit with local business owners from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM CT. And you can also watch the event live on SBA’s website or Facebook page.

Oakland Small Business Taskforce Town Hall

This free town hall event features a panel of business experts and taskforce members in Oakland, Calif. Small business owners and entrepreneurs in the area can attend the event to share thoughts and start conversations about issues that impact businesses in the area.

How to Write Your Email Content in 15 Minutes or Less

Hosted by Bria Sullivan, Webinar Content Developer at Constant Contact, and Dave Charest, Senior Manager of Content & Social Media Marketing at Constant Contact, this is another free webinar from SCORE. The live webinar starts at 3:30 PM ET and takes place for about an hour.

Find the Hidden Money in America

There are tons of hidden opportunities for entrepreneurs. This free webinar from SCORE, sponsored by Chase, features some tips for finding those seemingly hidden opportunities to make money and grow your business. The webinar starts at 5 PM ET.

Friday, May 5 National Small Business Week Final Road Tour Stop

Finally, the National Small Business Week road tour will make its final stop on May 5 in Fresno, Calif. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon will meet with local business owners who will share their stories with event attendees. And you can also watch the event live on SBA’s website and Facebook page.

Pathways to Capital Workshop

For businesses in Oakland, Calif. that want to learn more about different ways to access capital, this free event at Oakland City Hall may be of interest. From 9 AM to 2 PM, the event features financing workshops and panels all about how businesses can access capital.

Saturday, May 6 Shop, Dine, Visit Oakland!

In Oakland, Calif., the city wraps up Small Business Week by encouraging residents and visitors to stop by many of the local businesses throughout the city for sales, promotions and other specials. There’s also a wine festival and other events taking place throughout the city during the day.

Events Running All Week UPS Store Pitch Off Contest

Small business owners and startups can enter the UPS Store’s Pitch Off contest from April 18 through May 31 by uploading a 90-second video describing their business or idea on the UPS Store’s website. Then family and friends will have the chance to vote on the video entries throughout May.

Did we miss a National Small Business Week 2016 event? Let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing [email protected]

This article, "Really Big List of National #SmallBusinessWeek Events" was first published on Small Business Trends



By Gene Richardson

If you hate bringing your work home with you, spare a thought for the 3.7 million Americans for whom home is the workplace.

The telecommuter population is growing faster than the overall employee base, according to Global Workplace Analytics, and with half of all jobs deemed suitable for performing from home, it is a trend that is set to go on growing. Already, around a dozen of our 50 employees at Experts Exchange are home-based.

But, while remote working can bring lifestyle benefits for employees and overhead benefits to their employers, there is a problem that is also rearing its head. For security-conscious employers, who may have spent years getting their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy in place, the challenge of remote working is like Groundhog Day multiplied.

When your workers are connecting to your systems from home, likely with their own hardware and software, you can’t see, know or control the means by which they come through the door. Remote workers may be using out-of-date tools and systems, laden with unpatched vulnerabilities. They may be storing their work access passwords in cookie or browser caches. What if their laptop is stolen from home or left unattended at a cafe?

I believe employees connection from a remote location are the next big security disaster waiting to happen. That is why businesses, who should absolutely consider home working for employees, should also take appropriate measures to ensure systems integrity.

There are two categories of connection that businesses need to worry about. First, is staff who connect  via employer-issued devices – which, by the way, is certainly your preferred option.

The optimum implementation is to issue as close to the exact same setup as staff would expect if they were office-based – the same hardware, the same network configuration — but there are additional steps you should take.

At the very least, you should consider that people other than your staff member may access that device. Issue a tight mandatory screen lock time-out before a password is required, and ensure your employee cannot change that setting, nor can they add new users – no spouse, no kids, no one but your worker.

Next up, you need to protect the pathway to your door. You don’t know where your staffers will take their devices – a hotel, a Starbucks, the gym – nor how secure these networks are. Set up a secure virtual private network (VPN), a tool that ensures they beam in via your own network, on their machine to ensure snoopers can’t get by the security you have already deployed.

A growing number of companies, especially the thriving micro-business sector, welcome workers using their own computers and phones to connect to the office. This can certainly help keep down expenditure. But the security concerns surrounding this practice are magnitudes greater. Suddenly, you have even less control over the means of connection.

Your primary focus should be to require that the accounts with which staff connect to your systems, servers or hosted apps are protected using two-factor authentication. This extra layer of security, which would send a secondary qualifying code to a staffer’s smartphone, provides an additional barrier against unauthorized use, and is now easy to set up through services like Google Authenticator.

No matter what the device, the risk that your company’s credentials will fall into unsavory hands is great, when you consider that a third of office workers admit to having lost unsecured and unencrypted mobile devices in a public place, according to an Imation study. The takeaway is clear – implement an encryption solution from reputable companies like McAfee or Symantec to maximise your protection.

Best practice is to group your users by role, identifying what access privileges they really need based on their job, and limit their access to that alone, or make tough security calls based on the sensitivity of the data inside. Does one worker only need to connect to your web-based time-tracking log? Come on in. Does another need access to your database administration? Think hard about that.

Be aware however, that implementing some of these policies could lead to employees finding canny, and unsafe, workarounds. Many who are barred from accessing file stores may resort to sending files around by email – a weaker security point, from where sensitive information could leak out. So ensure your company-wide regulations prohibit the kinds of activities you want to discourage.

At Experts Exchange, we follow many of the above pieces of advice, implementing roles-based access that requires our remote staff only connect in via a work-issued laptop.

Small businesses, in particular, who are unlikely to hire a big IT or security staff, risk remaining vulnerable if they do not follow measures of their own – so act today.

Gene Richardson is the COO of Experts Exchange.

The post How Companies Can Keep Their Remote Teams Safe appeared first on Small Biz Daily.



YouTube Updates Restricted Mode

YouTube is making more changes to the now-controversial Restricted Mode.

YouTube Updates Restricted Mode

In an official post on the YouTube Creators Blog, the site’s vice president of product management, Johanna Wright, says the algorithm that filtered content out of Restricted Mode was wrong.

The filter incorrectly removed about 12 million videos from Restricted Mode, a feature designed to limit the amount of mature content available to users at schools, libraries and other institutions. The problem is many of these videos did not contain mature content at all but were instead simply about the LGBTQ+ community.

This created the impression to some that YouTube was trying to censor and limit information about sexual orientation. And the LGBTQ+ community naturally took offense.

According to an Engadget report, some examples of videos that were taken from Restricted Mode included music videos from the group Tegan & Sara, a video about a person “coming out” to their grandmother and one containing lesbian wedding vows.

“One thing we heard loud and clear was people’s desire to report videos they believed were being inappropriately excluded from Restricted Mode,” Wright says on the YouTube blog.

Wright says the Restricted Mode is being fixed but the site is also providing a form for creators to use to address specific videos that were wrongfully filtered.

“Though Restricted Mode will never be perfect, we hope to build on our progress so far to continue making our systems more accurate and the overall Restricted Mode experience better over time,” Wright says.

What is YouTube Restricted Mode?

YouTube Restricted Mode is supposed to prevent mature video content from being seen by younger users or users who would rather not see it.

Content dealing with topics including drugs and alcohol, sex, violence, mature subjects, and profanity, will likely have their videos automatically filtered from Restricted Mode.

These videos have a more limited audience but, of course, may be vital to a creator’s content plan on YouTube.

But these general filters are still leaving a lot of gray areas for YouTube and its algorithm.

And this is particularly true on topics related to sex, Wright explains. specifically on the topic of sex. Because there is clearly a difference between videos with mature sexual content and those simply dealing with issues related to sexual orientation.

“This is one of the more difficult topics to train our systems on, and context is key,” Wright says.

Only educational and straightforward videos about sex may be included in Restricted Mode in the future.

Otherwise, many videos on this topic will still be filtered by YouTube’s Restricted Mode.

YouTube Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "YouTube Provides Update on Restricted Mode Filter" was first published on Small Business Trends



Small Business Week and the SBA

A lot has changed in America since the 1960s and while many things are different in today’s United States, at least one of the fundamentals driving us all forward is still the same. While our values shift and IT creates realities considered science fiction back in the days of the Hippies and gas guzzling cars, the importance of small business remains one of this country’s immovable bedrocks.

That’s why celebrating National Small Business Week is as much a part of our collective experience as baseball and the Fourth of July. It’s fitting that some of the folks championing the event that runs from April 30 – May 6 are located at the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington D.C.

Small Business Week and the SBA Proclamation

“Every year since 1963 the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing that the country should honor and recognize National Small Business Week,” Stephen Morris, Online Media Coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration told Small Business Trends.

“In the U.S., small business is the backbone of the economy. They create two out of three new jobs and more than half of Americans own or work for small businesses.”

The SBA has long been the main federal agency that deals with small business issues. They deal with everything from supplying advice and assistance on how to start and manage a small business to a variety of specific loan programs and guarantees as well as contracts.

Involvement

The agency’s involvement with National Small Business Week stretches back to the earliest days of the event. Consider President Lyndon B. Johnson’s comments during National Small Business Week on May 24, 1965, where he specifically mentioned small business loans guaranteed by the SBA.

“Small businesses constitute more than 95 percent of all of the businesses in this country. They employ 40 percent of our entire labor force. They provide a livelihood for more than 75 million American citizens. Local development companies financed by SBA have created nearly 8,000 new jobs.”

Roots

The SBA traces its roots back to 1932, The Great Depression and the  Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). This is the grandparent of the modern version of the SBA. There were several other predecessors that took shape during WWII and the Korean War. Then on July 30, 1953, Congress created the early version of the modern SBA through the Small Business Act.

The social conscious of the SBA was evident quickly. The  Equal Opportunity Loan (EOL) Program was developed in 1964 to attack poverty by relaxing collateral and credit requirements.

Main Goal

“Today, our main goal is to educate and inform small business owners about the resources that are available to them,” Morris said adding that the SBA started planning for this year’s National Small Business Week immediately after they wrapped up last year’s festivities.

“All of our 68 district offices will be doing an event this year with many doing multiple events during the week for the small business community they represent.”

Some of the events planed for this year will cut a wide swath since they will be available online through the SBA website. Morris says this year’s event will start on Sunday and have a definite online flare.

Broadcast

“That Sunday at 4 p.m., we are going to broadcast a social media panel discussion that will deal with social media best practices for small business. That will be broadcast live from Washington D.C.”

One of the highlights will take place the following Monday when the SBA announces the National Small Business Person of the year winner. The schedule also includes comments from new SBA administrator Linda McMahon. She was the CEO at the World Wrestling Entertainment . McMahon and her husband ,Vince, built the empire that made her a billionaire. She was confirmed Feb 14th.

National

At the beginning of the week, McMahon will meet with and recognize  national small business owners in Washington D.C. She will attend events in NYC and other locations before finishing off with an event in Fresno, California. The SBA has 10 Regions and 68 Districts which will hold other events during National Small Business Week.

There will also be a series of webinars throughout the week on a series of different topics to be announced shortly. These are an opportunity for small business owners all across America to gain new knowledge and engage with thought leaders. There will be a total of five of these events during the week.

Social Media

The social media aspect to these events helps the SBA to get the word out to small business owners on a scale that’s only possible online. In fact, Morris says last year there were “hundreds of millions of impressions on social media,” with over 10,000 small business owners participating in the events carried out in cyberspace.

“It’s all become a really big online event which obviously  wasn’t the case back in 1963, but the Internet has become a really big part of how to reach small business owners. Besides, that’s where small business does business these days so that’s where we go to reach them.”

Online Small Business

As his title suggests, Morris is no stranger to the online small business space since he handles all the social media for the SBA. He says the administration realized several years ago the importance of the trend towards an online presence.

Still, he says the SBA favors a multi-pronged approach.

“While we definitely regard social media as an important way to reach small business owners, it’s not the only thing that we do,” he says. “ We have a bottom-line mentality that should resonate with small business owners. We carefully calculated all the returns on investments and that dictates things like how often we post in which networks we use most often.”

Advantages

He goes on to say that one of the advantages to the new digital media is the robust analytics that weren’t available back in the days of AM radios and bell bottom pants.

Regardless of the delivery method, the sentiment around National Small Business Week hasn’t changed. Today it might have a strong online presence, but the prevailing mission is still as black and white as an old television set in the desire to foster all aspects of small business.

Award

“Every year we give an award for a business that has recovered from a disaster,” he says mentioning how a business that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy last year received help.

“We brought them to D.C . to recognize and celebrate how they got their business back up on their feet as well as the contributions they made to their community.”

Small Business Trends a supporting co-sponsor of National Small Business Week.

Small Business Administration Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "National Small Business Week: The History of an Entrepreneurial Tradition" was first published on Small Business Trends



The Importance of Empathy in Business

Not displaying empathy as a company can cause your marketing strategy to go terribly, terribly wrong. You only need to look at United’s developing PR nightmare for a prime example.

The Importance of Empathy in Business

But the importance of empathy in business goes beyond preserving your company’s image. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) did a study that analyzed the relationship between , evaluating over 6,700 managers from 38 countries.

The study gathered data from both subordinates and superiors. Employees ranked their managers according to how attuned the managers were to the staff’s personal situations. Did they:

  • realize when employees were overworked?
  • care about employees’ personal problems and losses?
  • show interest in employees’ “needs, hopes, and dreams”?

Then those in leadership over the managers rated them on their overall job performance.

There was no question from the study that strong empathy skills are connected to superior job performance. The CCL’s results showed that “empathic emotion as rated from the leader’s subordinates positively predicts job performance ratings from the leader’s boss.”

Yet no matter what industry you’re in, it is only too easy to fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on how your service benefits your company. Your business does need to stay afloat, but caring about the needs of your customers is a vital part of making that happen.

Literal and Figurative Customer Pain Points

The importance of empathy in business is a lesson that the people at J. Reyna Law Firm have taken to heart.

J. Reyna focuses exclusively on defending clients who have suffered severe personal injuries. Empathy is important in any business, but it’s crucial in an industry where the goal is to assist people who are suffering.

The firm has helped many people who have experienced trauma while working in construction or oilfields, as well as those who have been hurt in automotive accidents. Clients include people who have needed complex medical care for damage done to the brain or spinal cord.

People who experience a serious injury are not merely going through physical pain. They also have anxiety about how their injuries are going to affect the future. Will they be able to go back to work and when will they be able to do so? What will be the impact on their families? Will they have enough money to make it through until everything is resolved?

And perhaps most importantly of all, will justice be done?

Experience Provides a Unique Perspective

Juan Reyna has a special understanding of his clients because he himself has had an immediate family member who suffered a traumatic injury. That situation gave Reyna a singular point of view for approaching how he does his job as a personal injury lawyer.

Reyna says, “It’s sad but society is so accustomed to reading about accidents on the news, that we’re desensitized to hearing about accidents to a degree … However when it’s YOUR family in the hospital or when it’s YOUR son/daughter/wife/husband that was hurt or even killed by an irresponsible party — there are no words for the pain you feel.”

He now helps victims of personal injuries with a true understanding of the financial crisis that’s facing them. He understands the emotional pain they’re going through, as well as their desire to right the wrongs they’ve experienced.

Empathy-Driven Business Practices

But if you merely feel your customers’ pain points and do nothing about them, having empathy does no good. Compassion must shape your business practices.

With his clients’ needs in mind, Reyna works on a “contingency basis.” He doesn’t charge people for a consultation fee, and he doesn’t charge for his services unless he wins a case.

He and his team put in the time to determine what is required to help each client succeed. His focus is not on earning money by taking as many cases as possible, simply hoping that some will be successful. Rather, he makes sure to explore every opportunity that could help all of his clients win. He also gives his clientele close personal attention and makes sure to communicate well with them.

3 Lessons on Empathy

1. Make sure you’re offering to solve a problem that you truly understand. By doing so, you’ll gain enormous credibility with your customers and actually be able to help them better.

2. Don’t merely focus on how you can benefit your company. Yes, you need to keep your interests in mind. But remember that by helping your customers, you are also helping yourself.

3. Adapt the structure of your processes to the needs of your customers in a way that accommodates the importance of empathy in business. Can you adjust the way you accept payments so that you relieve some of your customers’ stress while still making a profit? Any way you can make the buying experience easier for them will also benefit you.

Law Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What This Law Firm Can Teach You About Empathy" was first published on Small Business Trends



startup meeting plan

Difficulties arise when companies begin to scale up because as a company grows and expands its operations, entrepreneurs typically become less involved with the day to day operation of their business.

This removes them from direct interaction and contact with both employees and customers, making the company less responsive to the needs of its workers and clients.

Sustainable Growth Requires Planning and Direct Involvement of Leadership.

Over time, this distance leads to a decrease in team morale, engagement, performance, and customer satisfaction. The company may continue to grow for a short span of time, but, sales typically stall at this point.

As a company’s leader becomes increasingly removed from operations, its processes typically become increasingly complex and inefficient. Productivity and quality decline, and dissatisfaction increases among the customer base.

Without direct intervention by leadership, sales and profits begin a rapid descent. The once small, growing company that seemingly had such a bright future becomes yet another failed business statistic. All because its leaders were unable to successfully manage the transition of scaling operations to grow from a small to medium sized business.

Tips to Successfully Scale Your Business.

The following are a few areas entrepreneurs can focus on to avoid the pitfalls that befall small businesses as they attempt to scale their operations and grow to the next level:

Focus on Processes.

Six Sigma is not just for large companies; lean concepts are beneficial for organizations of all sizes. It is particularly beneficial for companies that are trying to scale up their operations from the initial startup phase.

This valuable tool set gives leaders a thoughtful, systematic way to be able to quickly identify and eliminate the unnecessary extra steps and procedures that cause processes to bog down, resources to be wasted, and a decrease in the quality of products and services that are produced.

Lean process engineering allows companies to increase their efficiency, lower costs and improve quality as they eliminate waste, streamline processes and focus on creating a culture that seeks continual growth, development and improvement. Each of these factors works together to increase worker morale, engagement and performance, boosting sales and profits as customer satisfaction grows.

Get Serious about Marketing and Building Your Company’s Brand.

In today’s environment of a growing awareness about various issues of social justice, and the impact made on our society as a whole by each individual’s actions, a growing number of customers are choosing to do business only with companies that share their values. 

Today’s most successful companies connect with their customers through social media and other channels and receive valuable feedback that helps leaders to be more responsive to customer needs and create products and services that solve problems. They also use these channels to start conversations about the greater needs of society as a whole, exchange information and ideas about how they can partner with customers and other third parties, and work together for a greater purpose.

Marketing is no longer just about getting your company’s name out there and letting folks know about your latest specials and deals. It’s time for you to learn how to market yourself, and how to use social media, your company website, and blog to share yourself. Furthermore, using these resources to share your vision with others, transform your customer base into fans who not only share your values but will work with you and your company to promote and effect positive social change.

Focus on Building Your Company’s Culture.

According to statistics on business survival from the Small Business Administration, only half of all businesses that have employees other than the owner will survive five years. Other research indicates that nearly 8 out of every 10 new businesses will fail within the first 18 months of beginning operations. There are a number of reasons why a company may fail, but one way to ensure to build a resilient, flexible company that is able to grow and survive financial difficulties and other setbacks is to focus on building a strong company culture.

A strong culture begins with recruiting talented team members that share your values and vision. Focus on defining what you believe in – your company’s values. Give your team a purpose and inspire them to pursue excellence by clearly defining your company’s mission and vision for the future. Why does your company exist and how does it benefit others?

Be authentic and accountable and ensure that your actions match your communications. Provide opportunities for your associates to gain the skills that they need to excel and grow along with your company. Advocate the development of strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect within your team to promote greater harmony, cooperation and collaboration.

Offer praise, recognition, and rewards when your team’s performance meets its targets, while staying true to its values and purpose.

Improving processes, building your brand and creating a strong culture are the three fundamental keys to creating an effective, lean organization that is not only committed to excellence and improvement, but which is poised to build sustainable growth as it scales up to the next level.



Weighing the Pros and Cons of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

Regardless of their industry or size, merchants from all over the world are beginning to embrace mobile payments, thanks to benefits like accepting payments wherever you want and improving the customer experience.

That doesn’t mean that there’s not a downside to mobile payments, particularly security concerns.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Mobile Payments

Before small business owners start accepting mobile payments, they should take the time to compare the benefits and risks of mobile payments so that they’re certain that mobile payments are the right fit for your business.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

 

The Benefits of Mobile Payments Customer Convenience

The biggest advantage of accepting mobile payments for small business owners is that it makes it easier for your customers to pay you. Instead of having customers pull out out their credit cards, cash, or write out a check mobile payments support contactless payments via their smartphones.

This not only speeds up the checkout process, it also gives you the chance to engage with your customers throughout the entire customer journey.

For example, using beacons allows you to send customers coupons when they’re in proximity to your store, browse product descriptions while shopping, upsell additional products, and accept payments wherever and whenever the customer prefers.

By making it easier for your customers to make a payment and interact with them, you can increase conversions and turn these customers into loyal brand advocates.

Reduces Expenses

Mobile payments eliminate the need for you to purchase expensive point of sale equipment by simply converting your mobile device by using a card reader or app. It also reduces the cost of paper and ink since you can email or text receipts to your customers instead of printing out paper receipts.

Improves Cash Flow

Mobile payments can increase your cash flow in a couple of ways. For starters, customers prefer to pay with their credit or debit cards over methods like cash. Also, most mobile payment processors transfer funds to a business account in under three days.

However, technology, such as the blockchain, makes transactions occur in real-time.

Integrates Loyalty Programs

Mobile payments makes it possible to integrate loyalty and reward programs since customer information is stored in the app — like being able to send customers a coupon when they’re in proximity to your store.

This means that your customers will automatically receive reward points or coupons for every transaction that they make.

Considering that repeat customers on average spend around 67 percent more than first-timers, seamlessly integrating loyalty programs can be a major boost to your bottom line.

Access to Actionable Data

Mobile payments can also provide customer data, such as how frequently they shop at your business, how much they spend, and what their preferred payment method is. This information can be used to target your customers based on their shopping behavior, patterns, demands, which improves customer service.

When you improve customer service, you can increase your sales.

Mobile payments also provide additional insights, such as automatically tracking your inventory. For instance, if you operate a food truck you’ll know when it’s time to order food products so that you don’t run out.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business

The Risks of Mobile Payments Watch Security

With the amount of high-profile data breaches, it’s understandable why security is a top concern among both business owners and customers.

Mobile payments are secure for the most, thanks to tokenization and biometrics, it’s been found almost half of all mobile payments are not secure.

Outdated Technology and Infrastructure

While mobile payments are less expensive than traditional POS systems, it still requires new hardware, such as a terminals or phones that can support Near Field Communication.

In other words, if you’re system is still an older credit card terminal, or you don’t own a smartphone then you can’t accept mobile payments. You also have to have a strong internet connection and updated infrastructure that make it possible to process mobile payments.

This may not be that big of an issue in developed countries, but for developing markets this is a challenge for small business owners.

Cross-Platform Solutions

Since there is a variety of different mobile devices and operating systems, like Android and iOS, and thousands of networks, a one-size fits all payment solution isn’t always available.

While mobile payments share similar qualities, there are slight differences. For example, Apple Pay employs a Secure Element (SE) to protect sensitive information, while Android Pay relies on Host Card Emulation (HCE).

User Adoption is Slow

Despite the fact the customers prefer to use credit or debit cards, most choose to stay in their comfort zones when it comes to making a payments. So, even though mobile payments are tied to a credit card, customers are more comfortable in swiping or inserting their cards in a terminal instead of waving their phone over a terminal.

Difficult to Read Terms and Conditions

Like any other agreement you would sign, business owners must first read and understand the terms and conditions presented by the mobile payment processor.

For example, processors like Square, will charge a 2.75 percent swipe fee for transactions. However, they’ll charge 3.5 percent plus $0.15 for each manually entered transaction. If you don’t read the fine print, mainly when it comes to processing fees, you’ll notice an unwelcome surprise when open your invoice at the end of the month.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Images: Due.com

This article, "Weighing the Risks of Mobile Payments at Your Small Business" was first published on Small Business Trends




NEW YORK (AP) — Giving workers a raise, investing in new machinery. Small business owners have long wish lists to choose from if the Trump administration’s plan to lower tax rates becomes law — but most don’t expect to go on a hiring binge. Some owners and small business groups hoped the dramatic cuts in […]


By Brandon Vallorani

In my early days as an entrepreneur, I repeated phrases like “Expand or Die” and “Go Big or Go Home” around the office. It worked. Since 2012, we’ve made the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies five years in a row!

To achieve this award for five years is challenging because the bigger you grow your revenue one year, the more revenue you must generate the following year. Thanks to an excellent team, we’ve succeeded in doing so. It’s exciting to focus on growth—especially for a startup.

But while you are admiring the bigger and bigger numbers each quarter, tiny cracks can appear in your foundation that threaten to bring your empire down. There are most certainly growing pains as well—pitfalls that have brought us to the brink of disaster.

Here are five pitfalls to avoid:

1. Hiring blunders

It’s easy when a business is young to hire people you know and trust like friends and family. Sometimes as you’re growing, you’ll find yourself hiring anyone and everyone just to keep the work going forward, even if their performance is subpar on entry. After all, recruiting can be time-consuming and expensive.

For many startups, early team members are often handed big titles. Will they be able to live up to the responsibilities their title demands as your business grows? Do they have the experience and/or education necessary to lead when you move from your garage to a corporate office? Did you hire two people for a position that one more qualified person might have been able to handle?

You don’t need the pain and drama of firing people you hired at the beginning. So, be careful what promises you make and seek to recruit qualified people at the start. Also avoid bloating your payroll costs with extra personnel.

2. Cash crunch

A business that is growing quickly can consume its profits for breakfast, and leave nothing for lunch and dinner as it experiences explosive growth. Before you know it, you’ve created a hungry monster that needs cash to make payroll, pay for advertising, and buy more inventory just to keep moving forward. Your amazing business could literally starve to death.

As revenue flows in, it’s tempting to put all of it into achieving the next level. While this is necessary to continue growing your business, make sure you are also keeping cash in reserve to get you through lean seasons.

3. Mission creep

When a business grows too quickly, many founders lose sight of their original vision. They broaden out so far that their team members forget what the product or service was that built the company in the first place. It’s good to diversify into new areas as long as the core business stays financially healthy and on track. Simultaneously, one can also wade too deep into a particular department that is of more personal interest.

As the company’s chief leader, seek to remain at the thirty-thousand-foot level rather than focus on minute details that can drain your time and energy, keeping you from driving the company’s overall mission forward.

4. Bad credit

Many startups struggle to find investors and capital, so entrepreneurs often leverage themselves personally to build their businesses. That’s exactly what I did, and I spent the first few years with a mediocre credit score that limited my financial options. I borrowed money to buy inventory and advertising, and then paid it back before any interest was charged. I thought it was smart until I realized that the credit bureaus showed my ratio of debt to available credit as 1 to 1.

To maintain a great credit score, you should only utilize 30% or less of your available credit at any given time. If you don’t separate your personal credit from your business credit, your future ability to borrow money will come to a screeching halt.

5. Boss burnout

Don’t forget why you started your business in the first place. For me, I wanted to earn more money than I could earn working for someone else. But it wasn’t just about the money. Rather, it’s what money could buy: time to travel and enjoy my family.

When a business grows too quickly, it can consume every minute of your day, making you reactive rather than proactive. Even if you do take a vacation, you’ll spend it answering emails and taking phone calls.

Don’t let your business become a runaway train while you race down the tracks trying to catch it. Be the engineer. Maintain a safe and steady speed so that you can stop and refuel when needed. What’s the point if you don’t take some time to reap the rewards of your hard work? Remember to take time for yourself and your family, and remember why you started your business.

About the Author

Post by: Brandon Vallorani

Brandon Vallorani is a practiced entrepreneur and accomplished CEO. He founded an Inc. 5000 media conglomerate, which has been recognized by the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies every year since 2012. Brandon has now has shifted his focus to Vallorani Estates, a luxury brand of fresh-roasted coffee, wine, cigars, and olive oil.

Company: Vallorani Estates
Website: www.valloraniestates.com
Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The post 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Growing a Business Too Quickly appeared first on AllBusiness.com

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Hopefully, you’ve read and started to implement some of what you discovered in Part One. If so, you should now be starting to fully appreciate how extremely savvy small business owners, startup entrepreneurs, and service providers are sitting on untapped money-making goldmines.

How to Add 25% More Gross Profit to Your Bottom Line Part Two

You should also hopefully realize that it is a huge and common marketing mistake to miss out on easy-to-pocket additional gross profits. Making this mistake can and will potentially cost your cash-strapped small business a fortune.

How Savvy Small Business Owners Add 25% More Gross Profits

Here’s another untapped marketing possibility, which has the potential to positively affect your businesses’s all-important, back end marketing sales funnel.

Think about how many times per day (all across America anyway), local cable representatives show up either to install or troubleshoot cable services.

And after they perform the necessary tasks, they simply have their customers sign off and then they leave, correct?

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, your local cable company and tons of other far less successful service providers are missing something. These people make frequent house calls 5-7 days per week and are making the exact same marketing mistake.

And doing so, over and over again, is literally costing them a fortune!

Successful Lead Generation Strategies Have Many Forms

What do you think will start to happen when the reps begin A/B testing various back end offers and prefacing them with an amazing deal?  Imagine them saying to their customers, “By the way, there is currently an extremely time sensitive offer available to you! And we’re offering it simply because you are brand new or existing customer in good standing.”

The reps then let their customers know they qualify to get X,Y and Z upgrades in their new or existing cable services. These upgrades will save the clients 20-75% for the next six months to a year. In other words, they’ll be rewarded with locked in additional savings, simply by acting immediately.

The reps let their customers know they also automatically get to choose any three Pay-Per-View (PPV) events (or whatever ethical bribe you ultimately decide on). And they can save an additional 50% (or X%), just for doing so. The reps could also reduce or waive some customary fee for anyone who enrolls right away.

My friend, fast food giant McDonald’s has and does make a fortune on a daily basis using a similar, proven upsell marketing technique.

Your Small Business Is an Untapped Marketing Opportunity

Just think how much more profitable your local cable provider will become even if only 30% of those daily service calls yields more business.

When you start marketing additional products and services to your existing client base, you’ll quickly move away from the typical 10-20% gross profit margins to 50-70% gross profit margins.

Now of course, your particular product likely has nothing to do with providing cable services, right? So you might be wondering how in the world you can effectively tap into this marketing opportunity.

Following is a simple example of how aspiring service providers can strategically generate at least 25% more gross profits. They can do so simply by selling additional services to their existing or first-time customers.

The Marketing Possibilities Are Staring You in the Face

Let’s say you provide carpet cleaning services in a very competitive market. You constantly face various types of discount price wars.

Both you and your major competitors are busy slashing prices to razor thin gross profit margins. You are racing each other to the bottom.

But from now on, each time you land new, discounted price customers, you immediately need to make them aware of something. They need to know how much more expensive it will be for you to come back at a later date. After all, you have ongoing expenses such as gas, paying your employees, etc.

Therefore, it makes far more economic sense for them to take advantage of your additional savings right now. All you have to do is add another room or two to your current offer.

Your Business Can Serve as Another Vendor’s Lead Magnet

Plus, you cross-promote another non directly competitive vendor’s time sensitive “ethical bribe.” Employ this particular proven marketing strategy if you don’t currently have any market-tested ethical bribes of your own yet developed.

And my friend, with just a little strategic A/B ethical bribe testing, you will quickly discover a simple way of systematically adding an additional 10-40% more gross profit (found money) to your bottom line.

And you can do so in the next 90 days or less! Don’t you agree?

So hopefully, between this two part series, you have discovered how some extremely savvy small business owners routinely add an additional 25% more gross profit to their bottom lines.

In the comments section below, please share your extremely valuable advice that people can apply to their businesses in the next 30 days or less!

As always, if you got any value out of this post, please Google Plus or tweet this. Thanks!

And be sure you grab your explosive, free 22-step small business marketing idea kit series. It will help you increase your profits by as much as 25% in the next 90 days or less.

It will also help you master effective communication in marketing skills, no matter what your particular niche market is. It’s a $97 dollar value and it’s free!

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The post How to Add 25% More Gross Profit to Your Bottom Line Part Two appeared first on GrowMap.



Few of us indeed are situated such that spare time is abundant. The same can be said, for most of us, concerning finances. Watering the “money tree” and it not growing to your satisfaction? Well, you are not alone!

Asking for help is not many an entrepreneurs strong suit. As a class, we have that “lace up the bootstraps” mentality. This is not a pragmatic approach. All one has to do is read the biography of 2 or 3 people who were successful in business.

What is one of the common denominators? Each of them, without question, has asked for and received help from a number of people. Typically, this help has come in the forms of practical advice from experience. It comes from individuals as well as organizations.

Below you will find a review of 2 points of reference for consideration in relation to resources. Finally, we have offered some “food for thought” for future consideration. The only aim here is to be helpful.


Information Resources

Careful thought and consideration before decisions are made in regard to financing an upcoming project, or perhaps a new business startup, is critical. The reasons are many, notwithstanding having a gauge of the current and future outlook of the economy.

Relying solely on any host of news media outlets is tempting, especially if you side strongly with one side of the political aisle. This can be a dangerous proposition, as these media outlets have been known over time to “skew” the numbers to their own political favor.

The number of small business loans granted is an example of an economic indicator that you can use to your benefit. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a valuable resource available for your use.

Financial Resources

What business owner does not experience stress over finances? It goes without saying that the entrepreneur, faced with costs associated with their new business launch, spends an inordinate amount of time budgeting.

Did you know that it’s possible to take out a personal loan and use the money for your business? Or, perhaps you have accumulated numerous debts and need a way to consolidate them all into one manageable monthly payment. This eases the stress of attempting to manage all those monthly statements.

Discover personal loan review offers those with good credit a personal loan that has a fixed interest rate, therefore each monthly payment will have the same terms. Additionally, the monthly payment will remain the same. This eases the stress that comes with trying to manage all those bills that are due at various points each month.

Future Considerations

Have you considered your savings plan for the future? I know, silly question, right? However, so many entrepreneurs become so singularly focused on their business balance sheet that they let their personal finances go to the wayside.

Often this is a consideration of available time. Your days are long and weary. Did you know that you can purchase and redeem securities straight from the U.S. Department of the Treasury? Your portfolio of government issued securities can be managed from one location, and is a paperless exchange.

The post Resources and Planning for the Future appeared first on MyVenturePad.com.



Are you wondering how to get a small business startup loan ? Startups need more than one source of funding. Typically, startups usually rely on a mix of financing tools to get off the ground. From startup business loans to raising money from friends, you need to have all the important details to finance your business. You can fund your startup using three main methods:

–          Borrowing money

–          Fundraising

–          Using your existing assets

You can use the following tactics to get funding for your startup:

Use retirement account with ROBS (Rollover for Business Startups)

ROBS allows you to invest finances from your retirement account into your startup without paying penalties for early withdrawal. This is not a method of cashing out your retirement account nor is it a loan against the account. With the right professional help, you will be able to tap into your retirement account and use the funds to finance your startup.

To make use of ROBS, your company needs to be set up as a C Corporation. If it becomes successful and starts paying shareholders, your 401(k) will get a share of the funds depending on its ownership percentage. You also need to be a fulltime employee of the business, which makes ROBS unsuitable for people who are looking to be absentee business owners.

Use equity on your home

If you are a homeowner with some equity on your home, you can get a low-rate loan (HEL) or line of credit (HELOC). You can then use these funds to finance your new business. HEL will give you the funds immediately, but HELOC allows you to draw against it as you please and you only have to pay interest depending on the balance you currently owe.

If you have 15% equity or more in your home, you can get a loan of up to 85 percent the value of your home. If you need a large amount of money upfront, HEL is the best option. However, if you do not need to use the funds right away, you should opt for HELOC to save on interest.

Getting a loan for your startup can be less time consuming than other financing options such as fundraising.

Personal loan from peer-to-peer (P2P) site

P2P lending allows you to borrow money through an online service that will match you with the right institutions or individuals. This technology empowers you to reach more investors than you would otherwise be able to reach. The largest P2P site is Lending Club, which connects investors and borrowers in a matter of minutes.

Traditionally, such sites focused on providing 3-5 year personal loans to consolidate debts or pay off credit cards. You can also use these loans to fund your startup. Recently, P2P lenders started offering small business loans, which are reserved for more established businesses.

To qualify for P2P loans, you need to have a good credit score of about 650. Although these loans are for businesses, you will be on the hook for the loan. Therefore, failing to pay the loan back will affect your rating negatively.

Use credit cards

Business and personal credit cards offer a cost-effective way of funding your startup. A small business credit card is not ideal for financing large businesses. However, it can be an essential instrument for cash flow management. With a small business credit card, you can cover your daily expenses while waiting for customers to pay.

Many business credit cards offer zero percent promotional introductory rates. Moreover, you only have to pay interest on the balance that you carry at the end of your billing cycle.

The post The best options for small business startup loans appeared first on MyVenturePad.com.



White House announces Trump Tax Reform

Historic tax cuts for American small businesses could be just around the corner.

In an announcement at the White House today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled proposed sweeping reforms to the tax code for all U.S. businesses. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn presented proposals to overhaul the personal tax code. That would impact millions of self-employed individuals and sole proprietors in the U.S. too.

@Reuters One pager on #TaxReform shared in White House briefing #PlanetTrump pic.twitter.com/ihO3X5XVus

— Niki Natarajan (@byniknat) April 26, 2017

Trump Tax Reform Details

The top rate for all American businesses under the Trump tax plan will drop to 15 percent under the proposal.

Check out the announcement from the White House press briefing room. During it, officials stressed the cuts were aimed at economic growth and job creation for American businesses:

The 15 percent rate is a big difference from the current 39.6 percent top rate for what are termed pass through businesses where earnings get reported on personal tax returns.

Some might expect the focus of a new tax cut proposed by the Trump administration to include companies like GM and Amazon. But an expert says the tax cuts unveiled by the White House will be a boost to your business too!

Ben Lau is the Chief Investment Officer at Apriem Advisors. Lau told Small Business Trends the reduction will be a boon for a wide swath of small businesses from the smaller mom-and-pop shops to bigger firms like those in the financial sector.

“Cutting that pass through rate to 15 percent would be a tremendous advantage,” Lau said in an interview following the announcement. The other proposals include reducing the number of personal tax brackets to three at 10, 25 and 35 percent. Currently there are seven tax brackets.”

Lau points to other positives for small businesses too. An example is the proposed repeal of the estate tax. This is one hurdle small business owners face when putting together a succession plan. It’s the method business owners use to transfer ownership when they retire or the bulwarks they put in place to guard against injury and disability.

“Most small businesses struggle with transition planning. Getting rid of the estate tax would get rid of a lot of the liquidity problems that future generations might have,” he says. The move would free up small business capital that would otherwise be taken up.

Lau is a macroeconomic expert and as such, he commented on how the bigger picture could be another positive for small business.

“Most people are employed by small businesses,” he said. “If people get more money in their pocket, this could really help to jump start the economy.”

Tax Cuts Timetable

During the press conference, Mnuchin said he is in talks with members of the U.S. Senate and House leadership about legislative action. The House would approve initial legislation before it’s passed to the Senate and then eventually to the President’s desk.

Previous estimates on when exactly all that will happen have ranged from August through the end of 2017.

Image: WhiteHouse.gov

This article, "Small Businesses Big Winners in Proposed Trump Tax Cuts" was first published on Small Business Trends



Business Travel in 2017

The latest edition of Small Business Trends Magazine is available for download now!

In this issue, we tackle the topic of business travel in 2017.

Business Travel in 2017

When done right with the right planning, a business trip can solidify existing relationships, put an important face to your coompany and perhaps even lead to new relationships — and new opportunities! But it can also be a real drag on your company’s bottom line. And for small businesses, every dime matters when you’re on the road.

In our latest magazine issue, we look at the highs and lows of travel for small business owners.

Gabrielle Pickard Whitehead shares some great money saving tips in our Travel Edition cover story. Later on in the magazine, she talks to an expert about the phenomenon of travel burnout and how it ca be a drag on both your small business and you personally.

And Annie Pilon shares road warrior advice for startup entrepreneurs, travel enthusiasts and the entrepreneurial business traveler.

Nash Riggins tells us how we can get away from work without totally disconnecting and Rob Starr previews details from the upcoming National Small Business Week event and gives a history of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

You’ll find all this and more in the Small Business Trends Magazine 2017 Travel Edition! Subscribe to future editions of the magazine for FREE today and get the latest edition right now!

This article, "Small Business Trends Magazine 2017 Travel Edition Is Here, Download Your Free Copy NOW!" was first published on Small Business Trends



Viral Marketing Lesson from the 10th Anniversary of Chocolate Rain

This week marks the tenth anniversary of viral sensation “Chocolate Rain” by singer and internet personality Tay Zonday. And this milestone isn’t just about celebrating a flash-in-the-pan online hit. It also serves as an important reminder for businesses.

Chocolate Rain was one of the first truly viral internet sensations. The original video has been viewed more than 110 million times. And the song has been referenced in pop culture all the way from 30 Rock to Spongebob Squarepants.

Even Zonday himself has created spoofs of the song and performed on late night shows and in other venues. Now, Zonday has released a new video commemorating the tenth anniversary of his viral hit.

Viral Marketing Lesson from the 10th Anniversary of Chocolate Rain

For businesses, the lesson of Chocolate Rain is simple. Digital channels have lowered the barriers of entry so that even an unknown brand can capture global attention with the right content. And the payoffs can be huge!

Since today’s the tenth anniversary of ? Chocolate Rain ?? I interviewed the man behind the meme, one Mr @TayZonday pic.twitter.com/XPknkIkGiG

— grace rahman (@GraceOddity) April 22, 2017

10 years ago, something magic was born. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHOCOLATE RAIN! may we all stay dry and avoid feeling the pain today pic.twitter.com/qp5nae1R1h

— dan g. (@dangoub) April 22, 2017

Happy Anniversary, @TayZonday! And love the new acoustic version of #ChocolateRain. So glad to know you, my friend. https://t.co/NWT0UONGYd

— Andre Meadows (@BlackNerd) April 23, 2017

Once you do start receiving some recognition, you can capitalize on it by accepting the additional opportunities that come your way. Because if the 10th anniversary of Chocolate Rain is any indication, viral content can have both an immediate and lasting impact.

Image: Tay Zonday/YouTube

This article, "Chocolate Rain 10th Anniversary Calls Attention to Power of Viral Marketing" was first published on Small Business Trends



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the plan for "the biggest tax cut" in U.S. history due to be released later on Wednesday by the White House would cut the business tax rate to 15 percent, including for small businesses.


Hiring Help for DIY Website Builder Tools

DIY website builder tools have seen amazing growth in the marketplace. And it’s no surprise why.

With tools from vendors such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Jimdo and WordPress.com, you build your own website through a do-it-yourself experience. With them, it’s possible to have a classy-looking website online in a matter of a few hours or less. You don’t need any technical skills — just set up an account and start using the tools. These DIY tools are low cost;  typical ranges go from free to about $25 a month, hosting included.

The combination of control, speed and affordability is hard to beat. It’s why literally millions of websites today are powered by DIY website builder tools.

Before today’s era of DIY tools, creating your own website required specialized coding knowledge and design skill, and many hours of work. Or you did what most people did and you hired a website developer, which tended to be expensive.

But now it’s no longer a matter of EITHER hiring someone to help OR doing it yourself, according to research from Fiverr, the online marketplace. Today, entrepreneurs and small business people are doing both.  They are getting started with DIY website builder tools and also hiring help to customize them.

A New Trend: Hiring Help for DIY Website Builder Tools

Fiverr.com reports 315 percent revenue growth in gigs or projects involving website builders (Wix, SquareSpace, Blogger, etc.) and content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. That’s for the calendar year 2016, compared with 2015.

Not only were there more projects on Fiverr, but they were for higher value services in 2016.

So why all this growth for hiring services to help with what are usually seen as “do-it-yourself” tools?  According to Brent Messenger, global head of community of Fiverr, there are three reasons.

First, now that there are freelance marketplaces like Fiverr out there, it’s just easier for someone wanting to build or improve a website to get help quickly.

“Entrepreneurs and small businesses have recognized that a digital presence is key for their business.  While they may have previously been willing to go it alone and take their chances, the democratization and availability of expertise has made it far more viable to seek help,” said Messenger.

Another reason has to do with wanting customization beyond an out-of-the-box experience.

“While DIY platforms offer a great way to get started, the reality is that there’s still a ton of customization that can occur within, and with that customization comes complication. While almost anyone can get up and running and tap into something like 70 percent of a given platform’s power, getting over the hump to deliver a truly professional product can be  time consuming. Those time and expertise hurdles can pop up on things like design and integration issues,”  added Messenger.

The third reason is time, according to Fiverr’s Messenger.  “You’ve heard that startups try to ‘fail quickly’ and many entrepreneurs are of the same mind. Getting a site built, driving traffic, and testing a proof of concept is key to determining the viability of a specific project or product,” he said.

“Having someone else build that test bed allows a business owner to get it done quickly and efficiently with high quality. This time issue extends across a growing business, which is why the ‘do it for me’ opportunity is something we see across other areas on our marketplace, too. In this case, it’s extremely pronounced due to the complexity and necessity that comes with a digital presence.”

This article, "More Entrepreneurs Hiring Help for DIY Website Builder Tools" was first published on Small Business Trends



 

By Rieva Lesonsky

Sometimes it seems that social media and small business owners are like oil and water—they just don’t mix. If that’s you—if you think social media is a waste of time—then you need to rethink the “recipe” and realize it’s more like oil and vinegar, turning two disparate ingredients into a more powerful combination.

Instead of rejecting social media, embrace it. Get in the habit of posting and engaging with potential and existing clients and customers. As much as social media is still considered “a new frontier” by some, there are rules that will make your social media practices pay off.

Below is a list of some social media action you should not take. These are the bad habits too many small businesses practice. And, as a result, time and money are wasted. Look at the bad habits below. If you’re guilty of practicing them, replace them with better social behaviors.

And to learn about other good habits you should be practicing, join me and YP on Wednesday, May 3 at 2 pm ET for a webinar on the 5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions.

Bad Habit #1: Talking Politics or Religion

I know some small business owners who argue that posting their political views on their business social media accounts makes sense since one of the points of social media is to give your business a personality. Maybe so, but your business’s personality needs to appeal to a wide range of consumers; why risk turning them away by espousing your personal views?

Bad Habit #2: Sharing TMI

Of course, you want your followers to know you’re having a blow-out sale this weekend. However, you don’t want your competitors to know exactly which products you’re discounting and by how much. It’s too easy to forget when you post on social media, you’re not just talking to your customers. Anyone can see your messages, including your closest competition. When using social find the balance between piquing interest and spilling all—for example, tell your customers to be on the lookout for an email coupon for an upcoming sale (with a link to subscribe to your email newsletter, of course).

Bad Habit #3: Thinking Social Media Doesn’t Matter

Social media is one of the most powerful (and affordable) marketing methods available to you, and ignoring that fact will cost you.

Bad Habit #4: Not Thinking Like a Customer

I’m a big proponent of the “Golden Rule”—treat your customers as you would want to be treated. How do you treat your customer? With quick responses, easy-to-find contact information, etc.? When creating your social media policy approach it from the customer’s perspective: What do they want and how can you deliver it to them?

Social Media Sin #5: Ignoring Ratings & Review Sites

Most consumers today are influenced by online reviews. In fact, a majority say they give as much weight to online reviews as they do to recommendations from family and friends. Make sure you claim your profile on the general ratings and review sites, as well as the ones specific to your industry. If you don’t, you won’t know what people are saying about your small business — and you’ll miss the opportunity to address consumer issues.

Again, to learn about the good habits you should be practicing, join me and YP on Wednesday, May 3 at 2 pm ET for a webinar on the 5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions

The post 5 Social Media Bad Habits to Avoid appeared first on Small Biz Daily.



50 Baking Business Ideas

If you enjoy baking, there’s a huge customer base of those who love baked goods out there.  That means there are plenty of opportunities out there for entrepreneurs to build businesses around baking. Here are 50 different baking business ideas you can use to showcase your talents as a baker.

Baking Business Ideas Bakery

If you want to start your own baking business, the most obvious choice would be to open a bakery where you can sell a variety of different creations.

Home Baking Business

Where permitted, you can also start a baking business where you simply make the items in your home kitchen and then sell them online or to local bake shops.

Online Treat Sales

Sites like Etsy allow you to sell cookies and other specialty baked goods from an online shop. Then you can ship those items directly to your customers.

Wholesale Cookie Sales

If you don’t want to start a whole bake shop on your own, you could just sell your creations to local bakeries or coffee shops on a wholesale basis.

Pastry Chef Service

You could also work as a pastry chef either for personal clients or on a freelance basis with local restaurants or bake shops.

Healthy Bake Shop

Baked goods aren’t usually known for their nutritional value. But you can carve out your own unique niche and take advantage of a growing trend by offering some baked goods that are a bit healthier than those found at your average bakery.

Wedding Cake Creation

Wedding cakes are always in high demand. So that can make for a profitable niche for anyone with some baking skills.

Cake Decoration

Or you could get even more specific and offer your services as a cake decorator, making unique creations on wedding cakes and other items.

Cake Sales

You don’t have to specialize only in wedding cakes though. You could simply open a cake shop where you sell items for birthdays and other occasions as well.

Bread Making

Bread is another popular item for bakers. You could open your own bread shop or bake bread for use in various cafe items.

Cupcake Shop

If you want to specialize in a smaller type of baked item, you could open a cupcake shop with lots of specialty flavors and sell batches or individual cupcakes to customers.

Cookie Sales

Or you could bake batches of various cookies and sell them online, in a cookie shop or in other stores in your community.

Artisan Donut Shop

Artisan donut shops are a growing trend right now. Start your own by creating your own unique flavors and menu items.

Cake Pops Sales

Cake pops are also becoming increasingly popular. So you can specialize in this type of treat and offer them in batches or single servings.

Pie Making

You could also specialize in baking pies and open your own pie shop or restaurant that sells pies as its specialty dessert.

Candy Making

Or you could make various candy products in large batches and sell them online or on a wholesale basis to stores.

Invent Your Own Unique Treat

You don’t have to specialize in one a category of baked goods that’s already popular. As an entrepreneur, you can come up with an idea for a whole new type of treat — or at least put your own spin on an existing favorite, like giant cookies.

Gluten-Free Bakery

There aren’t as many baked goods out there for people with gluten allergies. So that can be a profitable niche for bakers who want to provide baked goods without any gluten.

Vegan Bakery

You could also specialize in making baked goods that don’t use any egg, dairy or animal-based products to appeal to vegan consumers.

Organic Bakery

Or you could start a bakery or brand that only uses organic ingredients to appeal to health and environmentally conscious consumers.

Coffee Shop Owner

Coffee shops often also include plenty of baked goods like muffins, donuts and scones on the menu. So you can start your own coffee shop and offer those items as well.

Breakfast Shop

Or you could open up a breakfast restaurant or shop where you sell pastries and other types of baked goods that people can enjoy in the morning.

Event Catering

If you’re a skilled baker and chef, you could start your own catering business where you provide dessert along with your main course items.

Dessert Cart

You could also start a mobile business to show off your baking talents by utilizing a cart or other setup that you can wheel around to various locations.

Dessert Food Truck

Or you could capitalize on the growing food truck craze and simply put a baking twist on it by offering dessert items.

Fair or Carnival Vending

Desserts are particularly popular at fairs, carnivals and similar events. So you can start a business where you travel to those events and set up stands offering various baked goods.

Farmer’s Market Vending

Even though farmer’s markets are known more for produce and healthy items, there are some that will allow people to set up stands selling prepared food items. So you could bake items and then sell them directly to customers at local markets.

Dessert Delivery Service

Instead of setting up shop at a fixed location, you could offer baked goods to customers where they are. Set up a website and menu and then let customers order specific items for delivery within your general area.

Gift Basket Service

You could also offer more general products that simply incorporate the items you bake. A gift basket service can be a great way to accomplish this.

Holiday Treat Making

Around holidays, plenty of customers go out of their way for specialty baked goods during holidays like Christmas and Halloween. So you can offer treats that are specifically suited for those events.

Edibles Sales

In states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal, you can create a baking business where you sell various edibles and dessert items to businesses or customers who qualify.

Artisan Dog Treats

Even pets enjoy specialty baked goods. So you can use your baking skills to create dog treats and then sell them to pet stores or directly to customers.

Freelance Cafe Baking

If you want to bake at an actual bakery but don’t have the time or resources to set one up, you could travel around to different cafes and bakeries to offer your services as a guest baker or on a freelance or contract basis.

Baking Supplies Store

For those interested in owning a retail business, you could open a store that sells baking pans, cookbooks and other essential baking supplies.

Specialty Ingredients Sales

Or you could specialize in selling actual ingredients, especially those that might be difficult for bakers to find at general grocery stores.

Baking Teacher

You could also start your own baking school where you teach some of the basics of baking to students, or even specialize in more advanced baked goods.

Online Course Creation

Or you could create courses and offer them online to share your expertise with students from other areas as well.

Cookbook Authoring or Publishing (or Both)

You could also write a cookbook with various baking recipes and tips in it.

Food Blogging

Or if you want to constantly update your readers with new recipes and content, you could start a food blog with recipes and tips specifically about baking.

YouTube Personality

Video is also a popular format for sharing recipes and information about food and baking. So you could start your own YouTube channel where you share recipes and more.

Baking Video Sales

Or you could create video tutorials and sell them individually online, similar to online courses but on a bit of a smaller scale.

Baking Competition Organizing

Baking competitions are popular on TV and in person. You could organize your own event where you make money from admissions or sponsorships to highlight local baking talent.

Baking Kit Sales

To help other bakers make specific items, you could sell kits that include all the items needed to make a specific types of desserts.

Baking Subscription Service

You could also set up a subscription service with supplies and ingredients for other bakers to make various items regularly.

Baked Goods Subscription Service

Or you could set up a subscription service that includes the actual finished desserts instead of the supplies needed to make them.

Cookie Cutter Manufacturing

You can get a bit more specific with the products you offer. For example, you could specialize in creating cookie cutters in fun shapes for other bakers.

Cake Mold Manufacturing

Or you could make and sell cake molds and pans to help cake makers obtain quality supplies.

Baking Product Reviews

You could also serve as an expert who reviews various baking supplies and equipment on a blog or other publication.

Printables Sales

You might also consider selling recipes or other printable guides online. It’s a way to offer some content for sale without having to put together an entire book.

Baking App

For those who are tech-savvy bakers, you could even put together a mobile app that offers baking tips, recipes and other baking related content for users.

Baker Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Baking Business Ideas" was first published on Small Business Trends



NEW YORK (AP) " Halfway through Valentine's Day, florist Ajay Kori realized he was in the midst of a disaster.His company wasn't going to be able to deliver many of the promised roses and other flowers by the end of the day. Angry...

[Author: [email protected]]





We have previously talked about How to Set Your Mergers & Acquisitions Goals.  But, once those goals have been set, and targets have been identified, how exactly do you fund those transactions?  As you will read, financing M&A activity is very different than funding stand-alone growth with venture capital, as the investors are largely very different--mostly banks, private equity firms and family offices, instead of venture capital firms.  This post will help you better learn your M&A financing options.
EQUITY ONLY--NO CASH NEEDED
M&A activity doesn't always mean that cash needs to trade hands.  Sometime you can implement a merger by basically using your equity as a currency, and negotiating a pro rata stake in the combined company.  For example, if you have two equal sized businesses both valued at about the same valuation stand-alone,  you can merge the companies together and your original shareholders would own 50% of Newco and the other company's shareholders would own the other 50% of Newco.  If they are not the same size, use a metric like relative revenues or relative EBITDA and set the relative ownership that way (e.g., if one business generates 75% of the combined profits day one, they could own 75% of the combined equity in Newco).
CASH ON HAND OR COMPANY PROFITS
If cash is needed, maybe your business has cash on its balance sheet or it is generating material profits, and you can fund your M&A activity that way, with no outside capital.  Since companies are typically valued as a multiple of EBITDA,  you may need to save up a few years of profits, in order to afford the other company you are trying to buy, if they are the same size as you.
SELLER NOTES
The easiest way to finance an M&A transaction is to have the seller agree to not take all of their cash up front.  As an example, maybe you pay them 80% at closing, and  you pay them 20% in a seller note a year or two down the road.  Any seller that has confidence in their business, should be willing to agree to at least a small amount of seller note to help you afford the upfront transaction.
SELLER EQUITY
In many scenarios, having the seller involved with the future of Newco can be very helpful.  Maybe you don't know their industry very well?  Or, they bring some specific skillset to the table, and they would enjoy keeping part ownership and future involvement in "their baby".  That helps them to get some upfront liquidity by selling a large portion of their ownership, but at the same time, let's them participate in the long term growth that is created, as a minority shareholder.  So, as an example, if you give the seller a 10% stake in Newco, you only need to fund the 90% of the company's valuation upfront.
BANKS & SBA BACKED LOANS
Banks are often the first call for funding M&A.  But, with banks, there are several hurdles you need to get through.  They need to like the industry, the team, the historical cash flow trends, the underlying assets of the business they can secure, the financial covenants, etc.  And, the more cash flow you have as a combined company, the higher odds a bank with lend to  you.  There are some banks that will lend to companies as small as $500K of cash flow, but the vast majority don't really get excited until you are generating $2-$3MM in cash flow.  So, look for targets that can help you get to that threshold, to simplify your M&A fund raising efforts.  And, keep in mind, bank finance will be the most senior loan in your capitalization table, and banks will need to be repaid within a couple years (and will be senior to any other note holders, including the seller note above).  So, plan accordingly.
In addition, the banks are often conduits to loans backed by the Small Business Association, where they will lend up to 90% of the transaction.  But, the price is steep with the mandatory personal guarantees that will be required, putting you personally on the hook for any defaults by the company.  Personal guarantees can often be avoided in typical bank loans for companies generating enough annual cash flow, so only go down the SBA-backed road if it is your only option.
PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS
The lion's share of the capital needed for M&A will most likely come from private equity firms or family offices, likes these linked examples in Chicago.  There is a shortage of really good companies for sale, and these investment companies are more than willing to back good teams building good ideas, assuming the combined company is generating a lot of cash flow (which they can take to the banks and finance a portion of the deal with debt, to reduce their equity investment need).  Again, because they are looking to the banks for help, they too will bias companies with over $2-$3MM of combined cash flow (although many will look at deals smaller than this, if only investing equity).  Before you reach out to PE firms, make sure to research if they like to invest in deals within your industry and revenue stage on their websites.
EXAMPLE DEAL
So, let's put this all together in an example deal.  Let's say you found an ecommerce company to buy, that is generating $2MM in cash flow.  Assuming that company is growing 20% a year, it could be worth 5x cash flow, or $10MM.  You think it is important to keep the founder involved, and you are willing to have him take a 10% stake in Newco, so you really only need to finance $9MM to buy the 90% stake.  That could be funded $3MM by a private equity firm, $3MM by a bank and $3MM by a seller note (if amenable to the seller).  And, the private equity firm would most likely want you to have some "skin in the game", so maybe their portion is split $300K from you and $2.7MM from them.  Ninety days and lots of negotiations later, you should be ready to close.  This is an example only, as the multiples, amounts and percentages can vary substantially by deal, company, growth rate and industry.
Hopefully, you are now ready to put on your M&A hats, and get that transaction funded.  But, don't forget about all the potential M&A pitfalls along the way, as we have discussed in the past.  At all times, buyer beware, and exercise conservative caution throughout each step of the process.
 
For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

[Author: George Deeb]



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