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I recently wrote about how to set your strategies around mergers and acquisitions, but I wanted to go into more detail about one type of M&A strategy: the roll-up.  A roll-up is when you plan to buy multiple businesses within one industry.  And, there are many potentials ways to implement a rollup, which I will detail herein.
ROLL-UP STRATEGIES
You need to figure out exactly what your goal is from the roll-up, much more than simply growing revenues and market share.  For example, you may be rolling up geographies for an expanded footprint of boots on the ground: taking you from Chicago alone, into New York, Los Angeles and Miami too.  Or, you could be rolling up products:  taking you from a one product company (e.g., search marketing agency) to a multiple product company (e.g., adding email marketing, digital advertising and social media marketing).  Or, you could be rolling up industries to sell into:  adding automotive, retail and consumer products, to your original insurance focused business.  Or, you could be rolling up talent:  if your marketing driven business is able to add a strong sales team or strong technology development team into your arsenal. Whatever is most needed for your business, and positions you for long term success when you are done.
ROLL-UP FINANCING
One way you can finance a roll-up is simply using your company’s equity as a currency.  For example, you own 100% of one business today, but you might own 25% of the company, after four businesses are rolled-up, with the shareholders of the other businesses owning the other 75%.  Although most sellers like to see some cash at the time of sale.  The other way to finance a roll-up is by finding a private equity fund to help you with the needed cash, with the fund making an investment in your company.  Not all private equity funds do roll-ups, so you need to find the funds that prefer roll-up strategies in your industry (and can guide you through the typical pitfalls to avoid, which they have learned over the years).  And, assume the fund will not be financing the roll-up entirely with equity, so make sure the rolled-up businesses will have at least $3MM of cash flow with which to pay any debt-related payments which may be involved.
ROLL-UP INTEGRATION
My number one mantra from a roll-up of businesses is to “Do No Harm”!!  Do not try to fully-integrate these businesses day one, given the various personalities, company cultures and skillsets involved.  I try to think of it in three sequential phases: (1) phase one is simply rolling-up the financials into one entity, keeping the businesses largely running the same as they were before the deal; (2) phase two is integrating all the back-office functions across all companies (e.g., payroll, insurance, overhead); and (3) phase three is integrating the front-office functions (e.g., cross-selling products, cross-training sales teams, centralized brand).  Don’t try to do it all at once, as it will most likely not work out, as planned, and could result in disgruntled staff quitting and revenues falling far short of plan.  Phase it in over a couple years.
ROLL-UP PITFALLS
There are a lot of potential pitfalls with any single M&A transaction, which I won’t repeat here.  But, when you are rolling-up multiple M&A transactions, the opportunities for pitfalls are multiplied and compounded.  For example, merging two company cultures is hard enough, yet alone merging ten company cultures.  And, although the growth is exciting, the employees may not like the combined Newco company ,as compared to how things used to be at the stand-alone Oldco company.  So, get ahead of those issues and start pre-selling the future vision and culture across the organizations from day one, and make sure each company is involved in the creation of whatever plans are discussed.  And, often times, small businesses are dependent on their founders, so make sure they are locked-up as employees of Newco for some mutually agreeable transition period (e.g., at least one year), to ensure a smooth transition and limited impact to revenues post transaction.
ROLL-UP ECONOMICS
I have previously talked about shooting for 1+1=4 economics from M&A transactions.  For example, two complementary products, selling into two different industries, gives two $10MM revenue businesses the chance to get to $40MM together, after they start cross-selling their products into the other company’s clients.  But, those economics don’t hold up when only rolling-up geographies, as example, where 1+1=2 in a best case scenario of nothing going wrong.  And, as we learned, the opportunity for things to go wrong is quite high.  So, build in cushions into your combined company revenue plans.  Perhaps build in a 50% haircut on the target company’s revenues when building your models and negotiating your deals (giving the seller an earn-out if things go to plan, but not overpaying if they don’t).
SUMMARY
Roll-ups are often easier to transact than they are to execute post deal, so get good advice and mentorship along the way from professionals or colleagues that have lived through that battle before.  But, assuming you will get ahead of the potential pitfalls and are successful in your execution, it is a way to quickly grow your business and market share in a short period of time.
For future posts please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

[Author: George Deeb]



Want to Know How to Improve Google Search Ranking? Make Sure Your Site Has These Features

It’s no secret that Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is in a constant state of change, and according to MozCast, the online platform that tracks the day-to-day changes in the Google algorithm, the following features will help you improve Google ranking for your website.

How to Improve Google Search Ranking Google AdWords

Topping the list is Google’s advertising system — Google Adwords. According to MozCast, 52.7 percent of websites on Google’s front page feature   at the tops of their pages.

In essence, Adwords is an advertising service that enables businesses to display ads on Google and its advertising network. But website owners and publishers can also embed the ads on their pages as a way of earning extra revenue. The service allows advertisers to create relevant ads using keywords their customers would use during a search. Those ads can then appear on your site if they are relevant based on the keywords in your content. And you can share some of the revenue should a reader click on the ad on your site.

It appears, however, that just having the  ads on your site may raise ranking for the keywords that appear in  the  ads run on your site.

HTTPS Results

Back in 2014, Google announced that it would start using HTTPS as a ranking signal and true to that promise, it has. According to MozCast’s SERP feature graph, 45.7 percent of top ranked websites on Google are HTTPS websites.

“Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default,” Google stated in its 2014 announcement. “Beyond our own stuff, we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.”

In a tweet, Moz marketing scientist Dr. Pete Meyers, said:

Page-1 HTTPS results topped 45% in our 10K tracking set. Trendline predicts we’ll hit 50% in three months… pic.twitter.com/9hsUZoesgR

— Dr. Pete Meyers (@dr_pete) February 16, 2017

This just shows you how important HTTPS encryption has become.

Knowledge Panels

Coming in third, MozCast says that about 38.2 percent of the top ranked websites on Google have Knowledge Panels. In simple terms, Knowledge Panels are the information boxes that appear on the right side of search results.

Knowledge Panels

The provided information helps visitors to discover and contact your business.

Google uses an algorithm to determine your business’ relevance to visitor search and shows your business on the panel if it is most relevant. However, as in search results, the appearance of your business on the knowledge panels depends on a number of factors, including distance, relevance and your business’s prominence.

Reviews

According to MozCast, 36.9 percent of businesses on the front page of Google show customer reviews.

As a matter of fact, Google acknowledges the fact that it uses customer ratings in website rankings. These ratings show below the text ads and they help customers to find businesses that offer quality service.

Besides Google Adwords (Top), Knowledge Panels, Reviews and HTTPS encryption, other features that you need to pay attention to according to MozCast include AdWords (Bottom), related questions, site-links, featured snippets, local packs, top stories  and images, among others.

Google Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Want to Top Google Search? Make Sure Your Site Has These Features" was first published on Small Business Trends



Job interviews can be stressful. The best way to prepare for a job interview is to anticipate—and prepare for—the questions you are most likely to be asked.

So instead of stumbling through a job interview trying to answer questions you didn’t anticipate, check out this list of frequently asked job interview questions so that you can practice articulate and convincing responses to each one of them.

Introductory Questions

The job interview will probably start off with some general introductory questions, such as:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • How did you hear about this job?
  • What motivates you?
Questions About Work History

The interviewer will be very interested in your work experience and how that experience might translate for the open position. So expect questions such as:

  • Can you please walk me through your resume?
  • Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?
  • Can you explain gaps in your work history (if relevant)?
  • Can you describe a difficult work experience and how you handled it?
  • What’s an accomplishment you are proud of?
  • Can you give me an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty in your current job?
  • What is a typical workday like for you?
Questions About the Job Position

You will likely be asked questions that are specific to the position you are applying for, including:

  • Why do you think you will be a good fit for this position?
  • What relevant experience do you have for this position?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • How does this job fit in with your career plans?
  • When could you start work?
  • What’s important to enable you to do a great job?
Questions on Interpersonal Skills

The interviewer will likely want to probe about your work relationships and interpersonal skills with questions such as:

  • Have you ever had problems with a co-worker or supervisor?
  • Do you consider yourself a team player? Can you give me an example of when being a team player was important?
  • Can you give me an example of how you deal with conflict?
  • How would your boss and co-workers describe you?
  • What’s your management style?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Can you describe how you dealt with a problem colleague in the past?
  • If you knew your boss was completely wrong about a particular issue, how would you handle it?
Questions About the New Company

The interviewer might ask you a variety of questions about the new company to see if you have done your due diligence. So anticipate these types of questions:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Have you tried our product? What are your thoughts about it?
  • Do you know any of our employees?
  • What do you think of our company website?
Questions on Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The interviewer will likely ask potentially difficult questions to gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses, including:

  • What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
  • How do you deal with high-pressure situations?
  • What is your greatest professional achievement?
  • What do you consider to be your weakness?
  • What one thing would you like to do better? What’s your plan for improvement?
Questions on Compensation

You will likely be asked salary/compensation questions, such as:

  • What is your current compensation (salary and bonus)?
  • What are your salary requirements for this position?
  • Why would you take a job for less money (if relevant)?
Concluding Questions

There likely will be some concluding questions at the end of the interview, such as:

  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • Are there any questions that I should have asked, but didn’t?
  • Is there anything you want to add that we didn’t cover?

 

See Related Articles at AllBusiness.com:

Copyright © by Richard D. Harroch.  All Rights Reserved.

Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on investing in Internet and digital media companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, Fox Business, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and entrepreneurship as well as the co-author of Poker for Dummies and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, and venture capital. Richard can be reached through LinkedIn.

The post The 40 Most Frequently Asked Job Interview Questions appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post The 40 Most Frequently Asked Job Interview Questions appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Richard Harroch.



Have you heard about ransomware—or maybe even been victimized by it? Although this form of cyberattack has been around for a while, it’s becoming more insidious and more widespread, Symantec reports—and it’s also striking more and more small businesses.

Ransomware attacks work like this: Hackers infiltrate your business network, encrypt your data and then hold it for ransom, refusing to un-encrypt it until you pay up. The latest development, crypto-ransomware, uses unbreakable encryption so that even if you remove the malware from your system, you still can’t read your data.

Ransomware on the Rise

Ransomware has become easier for cybercrooks to use; as a result, the number of attacks—and specifically, attacks on small businesses—is on the rise. But if you haven’t heard about the ransomware threat yet, it may be because many businesses that are attacked never report the incidents.

In a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute, about half of small and midsize businesses report suffering a ransomware attack, and about half of those paid the ransomware demands. However, worried about negative publicity, many who pay up keep the attacks a secret. Ironically, the fewer businesses report ransomware attacks, the harder it is for authorities and experts to combat the attackers.

The average ransom demanded by attackers is $2,500, according to the Ponemon survey. While that may not sound like much, ransomware attackers can strike again and again—and the actual ransom paid isn’t the only financial loss you’ll suffer. Last year, ransomware cost U.S. small businesses $75 million in downtime, according to Datto. Sixty-three percent of small businesses affected by ransomware report downtime, Datto says, while 48 percent lose critical data.

Ponemon surveyed the people responsible for containing ransomware at SMBs; most said their employers believe they’re too small to be targeted. However, the survey respondents themselves (i.e., the people on the front lines) have a very different opinion. Nearly six in 10 respondents who had experienced an attack believe cybercriminals specifically targeted their companies. More than two-thirds (67 percent) say ransomware poses a greater threat than any other type of malware.

How to Protect Your Business

Protecting your business from ransomware starts with some basic cybersecurity steps. Install firewall protection and anti-virus software. Set operating systems and software to update automatically so security fixes and patches are always in place.

Once you’ve taken these actions, it’s time to focus on your employees. Human error is a primary way ransomware infiltrates small business networks. According to Datto, 46 percent of ransomware cases are linked to phishing (phony emails) and 36 percent result from employees who are inadequately trained in cybersecurity processes.

Start by developing a cybersecurity policy and educating employees about it. This should include developing strong passwords, changing them frequently (at least every six months or more often), and not sharing passwords with others.

Teach employees to avoid opening suspicious email attachments or links, especially in emails from unknown senders. Spear phishing is becoming more common: In this type of attack, hackers send emails that appear to come from inside the company, so recipients are more likely to open them. Train employees to examine all unexpected emails with attachments or links carefully, no matter who they come from, and to contact the sender before opening links or attachments if they have any concerns.

Clearly, it’s getting harder and harder to identify malicious phishing emails. That’s why backing up your data may be the most essential step to protecting your business from ransomware. In the Ponemon survey, 42 percent of businesses that suffered a ransomware attack were able to avoid paying the ransom because they had a full backup.

Back up and store your business data in multiple places, including both secure cloud-based storage and physical backups. Maintain copies off-site. Regularly test your backups to make sure they’re working properly. Finally, make sure you can restore your data quickly if needed. Being able to restore data in one day vs. one week can make a big difference to your bottom line and reputation.

The post How to Protect Your Business From Ransomware appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post How to Protect Your Business From Ransomware appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Rieva Lesonsky.



GHAZIABAD, India (Reuters) - Struggling with customers unable to pay on time and plummeting sales, Indian small-business owner Ravi Jain fears the government's crackdown on cash will have a much larger impact than predicted by top policymakers.


Expectations of Hispanic Entrepreneurs Overwhelmingly Positive

After a good end to 2016, a new study has revealed Hispanic small business owners are excited about their prospects this year.

According to the inaugural Bank of America 2017 Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight (PDF), 71 percent of Hispanic entrepreneurs expect their revenues to increase. That’s 20 percentage points higher than that of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs (51 percent).

In addition, more than half (54 percent) of Hispanic business owners are planning to hire more employees over the next 12 months. By contrast, only 24 percent of non-Hispanic counterparts are planning to hire this year.

Expectations of Hispanic Entrepreneurs Overwhelmingly Positive

It’s not just 2017 Hispanic entrepreneurs are feeling hopeful about. A surveyed  76 percent are planning to grow their businesses over the next five years.

Elizabeth Romero, Small Business Central Division executive, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) explains, “They see opportunity for themselves, as well as their families, and are leveraging personal networks and communities to help them realize their dreams. Even in the face of the same challenges and economic concerns that affect all small business owners, they are proving to be not only resilient, but incredibly bullish about their future plans and prospects for success.”

But Some Concerns Persist

While they are confident about business growth, Hispanic entrepreneurs continue to be worried about some of the challenges they face.

According to the report, 23 percent of Hispanic small business owners find maintaining a work-life balance to be their biggest challenge. This is followed by concerns over finding qualified employees (19 percent).

Other challenges include understanding business regulations and policies (17 percent) and accessing loan funding (17 percent).

For the study, GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications conducted a survey of 1,000 small business owners in the United States on behalf of Bank of America.

Image: Bank of America

This article, "71 Percent of Hispanic Entrepreneurs Expect Revenue Increase" was first published on Small Business Trends



Video is the new star of a small business’s marketing strategy. In fact, 96% of B2B marketers today engage in video content marketing, and nearly three-quarters of marketers say that video marketing brings positive results to their company.

Video marketing is “efficient” too. “A minute of video is the equivalent of 1.8 million words,” says Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research. Those 1.8 million words translate to roughly 3,600 pages of web content, and if you were creating content at the speed of a single web page per hour, it would take nearly five months to produce enough content to create the same impact as 60 seconds of video.

If you haven’t added video to your marketing mix, here are more reasons why now is the time to push the video play button.

Video ROI vs. Content ROI

An infographic from MarketingProfs shows the key differences in tracking the ROI of text-based assets and video assets. For text-based content, once syndicated, it’s difficult to track their success, but with video, that’s not the case; 40% of video marketers can track various metrics across all channels for video, while 16% of non-video users have that ability.

In addition, the websites of non-video users only convert at 2.9%, whereas the websites of video marketers have a 4.6% conversion rate—representing a 65% increase in conversion rate for videos compared to text-based assets.

Non-video users are also spending an average of $115 per lead, compared to just $93 per lead for companies using video. The companies using video require 37% fewer unique site visits to generate their marketing response.

Video Drives Engagement

Visual content, including photos and videos, drives engagement. One month after Facebook launched the Timeline profile format for brands, companies reported a 65% increase in interactive content (video and photo) engagement. In terms of advertising, the average engagement rate for rich media ads such as video ads is 16.85%, compared to 1.62% for mobile ads, and 2.14% for standard banner ads. Nearly 93% of shoppers say visuals are the most influential factor affecting their purchasing decisions, and the viewers of e-commerce videos are  than non-viewers.

MetLife Hong Kong launched a video marketing campaign titled, “My Dad’s Story: Dream for My Child.” In the video, a father reads an essay his daughter wrote about him. She describes her father as “the smartest,” “most clever,” and “Superman.” She goes on to say she knows he lies about being tired, having money, and having a job—as part of the sacrifices he makes for her. The campaign then directed viewers to visit a website where parents could submit their dreams for their children for a chance to win a three-year endowment plan to save for their children’s college.

This video engaged more than 300 million people, with over 27 million views on Facebook and YouTube: 7 million viewers shared the video, 268 million read about the video through nearly 100 news reports, and 280,000 visited the MetLife microsites in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Video Helps Brand Awareness

Video can work alongside your other assets to help build brand awareness. In fact, a study by On Device Research showed . That means your video content is likely to get shared across multiple channels, furthering your reach and expanding your brand awareness. The majority of those sharers shared video on Facebook and similar social websites, while 44% simply passed the mobile device to their friend for viewing.

The number of people watching YouTube every day is up 40% year over year since March 2014, and the number of hours people watch YouTube videos is up 60% year of year. YouTube mobile reaches more 18 to 49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S.

Video Improves SEO

It makes sense that because Google owns YouTube, including YouTube videos on your landing pages will help boost your Google ranking. While no one knows exactly what goes into a ranking, we do know it’s a combination of factors. Forrester Research also says the chances of getting a page one ranking with the search engine increases about 50 times with video.

Links also play a role in SEO, and according to SEOmoz, blog posts that include video attract three times the inbound links compared to blog posts that do not include video.

Video: A Smart Marketing Strategy

By taking the time to learn more about video marketing, and analyzing video marketing trends, you can fine-tune your company’s marketing strategy. Use analytics to determine when and where your customers are dropping off turning a video, at what point in the sales and marketing funnel they are driven to make a purchase, etc., and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

Video marketing can take your marketing campaigns to new levels, and when done well, your video marketing ideas can be repurposed to create additional marketing assets that will stretch your budget.

The post 4 Reasons Why Video Is the New Star of a Small Business’s Marketing Strategy appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post 4 Reasons Why Video Is the New Star of a Small Business’s Marketing Strategy appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Megan Totka.



What Are Print on Demand Services and How Can I Use Them for My Business?

As a small business owner, it can be a huge risk to invest lots of time and energy manufacturing inventory that you might not even be able to sell. Unfortunately, it’s always been pretty hard to stay afloat without having lots of products and a huge stock to show off. That often leaves struggling start-ups between a rock and a hard place.

But thanks to huge breakthroughs in an up-and-coming print on demand sector, more and more business owners are finding themselves able to have their cake and eat it, too.

What Are Print On Demand Services?

Print on demand is a digital production model that sees goods manufactured on an as-needed basis.

The model was initially rolled out in the publications sector in order to combat the huge overheads that are increasingly threatening the very existence of publishing firms. Instead of shelling out for huge initial print runs or producing in bulk for major promotions, firms can now use print on demand services to rapidly manufacture a book or publication only after it has already been paid for by the customer.

Some traditional firms have introduced print-as-you-go services for aspiring authors and niche topics, while a flurry of specialist print on demand services have surfaced over the last few years. The deployment of print on demand services generally come hand-in-hand with lower profit margins.

Yet it’s also worth pointing out the print on demand model is no longer exclusive to publishing firms. Online retailers like CafePress offer a user-customized on demand platform for garments, apparel and other gifts — while specialist websites now enable small businesses to set up online shops specifically geared at providing print on demand services.

Why Would I Use Print On Demand Services for My Business?

Print on demand services come with a clear set of advantages. First and foremost, you aren’t burdened by the costs associated with producing and storing inventory. There are no up-front bulk production or manufacturing costs, and you don’t need to pay for storage space.

Depending on how you’ve implemented a print on demand model or which third party you choose to partner with, you’ll also likely benefit from near-immediate production and order fulfillment. Many print on demand services can ship your items directly to your customers — freeing up your time to focus on more important orders of business.

If you’re self-publishing or manufacturing items that could be subject to minor tweaks — such as text or graphics changes — print on demand services also mean you won’t waste money producing products riddled with mistakes. Your product lives in a digital format until it’s ready to be manufactured, which means it’s incredibly easy to make important changes.

If you’re thinking about using a print on demand service for your business, just remember to start with a bit of research to decide how and where it may be able to enhance your current offerings. Carefully vet potential partner companies, and check out a range of samples in order to find manufacturers that are able to provide the best value and quality.

Printing Press Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Are Print on Demand Services and How Can I Use Them for My Business?" was first published on Small Business Trends



How Your Smart Phone Can Cut Your Accounting Costs

Small business owners: Do you ever wonder why your accounting bills are so high? Ironically, it has nothing to do with the cost of the service.

Accounting fees are expensive because accountants spend countless hours chasing small business owners to find out the business purpose of transactions. It’s their job to keep their clients’ records accurate and their efforts compliant with the IRS. And they simply cannot chase down this information cheaply.

Of course, some small companies try to keep those costs down by hiring bookkeepers. But even bookkeepers aren’t cheap. In 2016, U.S. businesses spent more than $200 billion to employ 5,000,000 bookkeepers, with the average small business bookkeeper costing more than $20 an hour.

How to Cut Your Accounting Costs

Recently I came across a start-up called TALK Accounting that’s solving this problem. They’ve created bookkeeping workflow software for accounting firms and their clients that allows business owners to track and categorize business expenses and the supporting receipts by using the talk, text and photo features of their smart phones.

I got a chance to play with the software, and it’s pretty awesome. I’ve got three different side small businesses — my consulting work and two property rental companies, each holding a short term vacation rental condo. For me, making sure I accurately categorize expenses to the right company, and the right client, is crucial. Before I tried TALK Accounting, I could not find anything that worked right off my smart phone in an intuitive fashion. But even I, a confirmed luddite, can answer a question like “Was that purchase of towels at Target a business expense for your beach condo?”

As much as I like the product, I cannot benefit in the way that many small business owners can. I don’t employ a bookkeeper so I cannot use the service to dramatically cut my bookkeeping costs. With TALK Accounting you can pay $97 per month for software that replaces 90 percent of your bookkeeping tasks. For a small business owner spending $20 an hour for a contract bookkeeper, that’s an expense of $97 a month in place of a more than $1000 one.

Then there’s the reduction in errors. Bookkeepers are human, and make mistakes with tasks like categorizing expenses. By using software instead of people, TALK Accounting reduces the number of errors that business owners make in recording expenses. To me, eliminating the stress of your accountant discovering that you miscategorized an expense and are in trouble with the IRS might be worth the cost of the software.

For most small businesses, record keeping is a cost, not a source of revenue. Anything that drives down the cost of record keeping will improve the bottom line of the business. By shifting to paperless accounting, reducing bookkeeping errors, voice-activating data entry, and automatically capturing credit card transactions in real time, TALK Accounting is driving down the cost of bookkeeping.

The company is soon to launch a partnership with Fujitsu’s Scansnap cloud, so that a business owner can simply drop documents on a scanner, click scan and know that their expense records have automatically gone into their back-end document management system online.

Maybe I am too much of a new company nerd. But I really love it when start-ups introduce products that wring costs out of operating a small business.

Disrupting bookkeeping! Now, that’s entrepreneurship for you.

Using Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How Your Smart Phone Can Cut Your Accounting Costs" was first published on Small Business Trends



The Deeming Rule Is Snuffing Out Small Cigar Manufacturers

FDA attacks on small cigar makers are eliminating consumer choice with an illegal new rule, the nonprofit government watchdog Cause of Action (COA) Institute argued in an in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The FDA failed to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis — as required by executive orders under former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — before issuing the “Deeming Rule,” which placed all tobacco products under FDA regulation in August 2016, according to the brief.

The rule “unfairly” targets smaller-scale cigar manufacturers, meaning many small cigar companies will have “no choice” but to sell out to larger corporations, and those corporations will dominate the marketplace as monopolies, COA Institute argued.

The Cigar Association of America is suing the FDA to overturn the Deeming Rule, claiming the FDA’s rule-making process violated federal law, and the resulting rule is unfair.

“Common sense appears to be dead at the FDA,” Patrick Massari, assistant vice president at COA Institute, said in a statement. “Inexplicably, the FDA ignored tens of thousands of comments from the premium cigar industry, Congress, local government, media, and the citizens of the United States, particularly those affected in ways large and small by FDA’s power grab. Under this new rule, the tradition of premium, hand-rolled cigars handed down by generations will turn into a corporate profit mill.”

A 1993 Clinton executive order said each “agency shall tailor its regulations to impose the least burden on society, including individuals, businesses of differing sizes, and other entities (including small communities and governmental entities), consistent with obtaining the regulatory objectives, taking into account, among other things, and to the extent practicable, the costs of cumulative regulations.”

But the limited cost-benefit analysis the FDA conducted failed to address how the Deeming Rule will cause premium cigar prices to increase for consumers, create unfeasible compliance costs for smaller, family-owned businesses, and cripple consumer choice and future innovation, the COA Institute said.

The FDA in its final rule analysis admitted it never analyzed the new rule’s influence on consumer choice, saying it lacked a “baseline estimate of consumer valuation of tobacco product variety, making it impossible to estimate how consumers who continue to use tobacco products would value the potential loss of variety due to product exit under this final rule.”

“This necessary cost-benefit analysis can be ignored no longer,” the brief said. “Amicus COA Institute respectfully requests this court to strike down the current rule, and remand the agency for further proceedings.”

Republished by permission. Original here.

Cigar Maker Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "An FDA Regulation Is Snuffing Out Small Cigar Manufacturers" was first published on Small Business Trends



If there is one steadfast rule of thumb in business it would probably be that you are only going to be as successful as the team that forms the foundation of all you do and are. However, in order to build a rock-solid team, you need to offer a competitive benefits package that will entice talented people to join you, and that may not be as easy as it sounds. Here are some thoughts on choosing a competitive benefits package and why it’s safe to say, the fun is just about to begin.

Building a Package from the Foundation Up

The first thing any successful business owner knows is that the foundation of any great benefits package is insurance. From health insurance to life insurance to final expense insurance and everything in between, this offers the security top talent are looking for when searching for a job with a future. A well-rounded benefits package would also offer retirement plans, perhaps stock incentives and other perks, but the foundation will be the type and amount of coverage you can provide as part of the deal – a very large part, at that!

The Fun Is About to Begin

Walking on a Slippery Slope

So then, let’s start with health insurance which has been a very big topic of conversation everywhere in the US for these past 8 years. Just when you thought you had it down and understood how to meet with regulatory compliance of the Affordable Care Act while providing a strong package that is more attractive than the competition can offer, the rules begin to melt. You’re walking on a slippery slope at the moment because they are about to change again! Here is where you might want to consult with a team of experienced benefit advisors because transitions are always rocky, and this one promises to be a very rough ride.

First Things First

At the heart of the issue is the Affordable Care Act, which we’ve come to call Obamacare. For the past 8 years, many businesses around the country were in a state of panic. It became mandatory to offer some form of health insurance but when that insurance was a key feature of a benefits package, how was it possible to offer something a cut above what the competition could offer?

The ACA detailed strict regulatory compliance parameters that businesses needed to operate within, most often based on the size of the company. And, here’s where it began getting a bit sticky and much slipperier.

Size Really IS Everything

Generally speaking, a small business employs anywhere between 1 and 25 people whereas an SMB could employ up to 100 workers. And of course a large business or corporation would employ a number greater than that, sometimes as many as tens of thousands of people on the books.

Unfortunately, that is just a ‘general’ rule of thumb as the government has also determined that the type of industry could also be a determining factor in what is considered large or small. For example, according to the Small Business Association, size is determined by category in that some small businesses employ up to 1,500 people while others have the cut-off set at 1,000. Are you confused yet? There’s more to come!

The Times They Are a Changin’

Perhaps the best way to explain what comes next is that old Bob Dylan song from back in 1964. When he crooned The Times They Are a Changin,’ who would have predicted how pertinent those very words would be now some 50+ years down the road?

With Obama’s one foot out the door and Trump’s other foot halfway in, there’s no telling what will happen next year and in the years to come since repealing Obamacare was a huge part of his campaign. Just when you thought you understood what you had to do to keep Uncle Sam happy and the tax man off your doorstep, the rules are set to change once again.

Let’s Play Monkey in the Middle

If you are a small to midsized business in the United States, you might want to take a refresher course on that old kids’ game, Monkey in the Middle. Where large corporations are governed by one set of rules under the ACA and very small businesses operate under another set, SMBs are caught up in the middle. Large corporations get all kinds of tax breaks and very small businesses get all kinds of government assistance but SMEs, the backbone of the country, are left holding the proverbial bag. It has fallen upon them to bear the weight of Obamacare.

What Kind of Insurance Must You Offer?

Then there is the fact that there are various types of insurance which can ‘fit’ ACA regulations and some which won’t make the grade. Some businesses wanted to stay with the company they already had for many years and others opted into the benefits Obamacare insurance providers could offer. It was often a mess sorting out whether or not a company could stick with their current provider and of course, it all centered on whether or not that insurance company would be willing to underwrite specific coverages that the ACA mandated were necessary.

Adding Layers to the Foundation

Insurance, as mentioned, is really just the foundation of a benefits package with other perks sweetening the deal. Some companies choose to offer shares as incentives while others add cash awards for certain milestones being met. Some packages are inclusive of company cars, Internet for the home office if that worker is ever going to work through a remote connection and the list goes on from there. All of this needs to make sense from a business sense as well. A benefits package needs to up the ante but at a reasonable cost to the employer.

With all this going on now and in the near future, it really would be in the best interest of your SMB to contract an expert team of benefit advisors. Compliance is important but for how long will regulatory compliance be in stasis? Will the new administration rush through repealing the ACA as top item on his agenda or will it be put on a back burner until other, more pressing matters can be sorted out? No one knows for sure at this time but what we do know is – grab your seats. The fun is about to begin!

Image: Shutterstock



Blogging has become a profession of its own, replacing “traditional” careers such as law.

A Much Wanted Impact Best Social Media Practices for Blog Growth

Blogging isn’t a demanding career because it is flexible and it is easy to adapt it to your needs. You just need to create your own spot for writing (at home, the office, a café, etc.). Then prepare your mind to unleash your inner world. But you may ask: how can I live from something so personal?

The bright side of this challenge is that many people worldwide share the same interests as you. People are looking for inspiring stories that will make them get out of their chairs and start doing what they have always dreamed about. And if you can add a monetary value to that, that’s even better, right?

Today we are going to review the best practices you can apply to help your blog to develop. By doing so, you are also securing your path to success.

1 – Create your own niche

Even if you want to express every single idea that comes to your mind, that doesn’t mean your blog has to host posts ranging from gardening to photography or cover both motorsports and ballet. That’s madness and will certainly drive visitors away from your site.

Take two to three days and think carefully about what your very own passion is. After that, you can start writing about it, as well as topics related to your passion. You can even write about out-of-niche topics as long as you relate them to your blog’s theme.

If you find creative ways to gain an audience, then you certainly are going to secure loyal visitors.

2 – Engage your audience

Now that you started building your audience, it’s time to invite them to interact and to keep them anticipating what are you going to do next. In my personal opinion, there’s no better platform for this goal than Instagram.

Instagram allows us to communicate through images, which are immensely appealing and valuable. But also, given its latest updates, Instagram also helps us to dialogue with our so-called “followers.” And yes, people are following what you have to say, so keeping the one-post-a-day recipe is the first step to success.

People coffee tea meeting

By keeping an eye in your personal stats (follower count, post count, likes), you can determine the best strategy for maintaining and growing your fan base. Tools like Gramblast are indispensable for having an accurate knowledge of your follower count because Instagram doesn’t show the exact number after 10k followers.

Keep an eye on your image quality: avoid any kind of pixelated images! Nothing expresses the term “unprofessional” more than that.

3 – Get some extra help

Guest posting is a practice well-known by many bloggers. The idea behind guest posting is to use the reach of authority websites in your own niche to help you grow your visitor count.

How do you do that? First, you need to reach the authority site’s admin/editor and do a proper proposal. Many websites ask for a fee in exchange for sponsored posts or visual advertisements (some of them on a monthly basis!). Others require you to include advertisements from their sites or to give them a product you sell—in case you happen to host a store as well—in exchange for a spot on their site.

This is where you need to play your cards well: refrain from doing self-promoted posts. Both admins and users hate that. But do tell your story through the article you’re giving to the host site. Any links you include in your post should be natural and be educational to your readers.

You can learn more vital practices on how to pitch your guest blog post from this infographic by Infobrandz.

Pitch Your Guest Blog Infographic

Infographic Courtesy Of Infobrandz.com

4 – Don’t post too often

As bad as it is to neglect a social media profile, doing the opposite is just as bad, if not worse. Those who post around four to five times per day on a platform such as Instagram or Facebook are only scaring off their audiences. Posting so often looks like an information bomb that has no unique content.

Keep an editorial schedule where you organize your blog posts, but also sort the blogs you post on places like Instagram and Facebook. Twitter works differently. You literally need to tweet your way through the ranks, and the more the merrier as long as your tweets are relevant and not spammy.

5 – Keep healthy SEO practices

From well-written titles and metas to adding tags to your images and posts, giving SEO the attention it deserves is crucial. SEO is the fastest way to grow your website’s authority. There are several guides around the net that summarize the essential elements of SEO, but overall follow these points:

  • Naturally add keywords throughout the text
  • Do interlinking (adding links in your blog to internal pages of the site on which you’re posting)
  • Remove plugins that slow down your website and don’t upload large images—page load time is crucial
  • Always fill in alt-tags for your images
  • Link to authority sites

By following these tips, you are taking the first step towards becoming a blogging star. However, keep in mind that this is a step-by-step job, and you can’t expect success overnight. With time and dedication, your efforts will pay off. Good luck!

The post A Much Wanted Impact: Best Social Media Practices for Blog Growth appeared first on Growmap.



The “stores” — trucks that sell snacks and small grocery items — used to hum through areas near public housing. But they’re an increasingly rare sight.


The “stores” — trucks that sell snacks and small grocery items — used to hum through areas near public housing. But they’re an increasingly rare sight.


For the last several years, California has been been dealing with extreme drought levels. This has led to plenty of issues for businesses in the state, most notably for agriculture businesses. But even those that use water for other things like food processing, energy and hospitality have had to make adjustments due to the drought levels.

Now, the state is looking at its lowest drought levels since 2011. No part of the state is in an extreme drought for the first time in four years. And the state is apparently on track to have its wettest year on record.

But it’s not all good news for California businesses. This quick turnaround does mean that the state might have to brace itself for more floods. And that’s something that can have a negative impact on area businesses as well, though perhaps in different ways.

It Pays to Have a Severe Weather Emergency Plan

Unfortunately for those businesses, there still isn’t any way to control the weather. So not much can be done to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. But being prepared for droughts, floods and everything in between is a good idea for any business.

Even if your business doesn’t operate in California, having a severe weather emergency plan could prove to be beneficial in the case of an emergency.

Sand Bags California Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Extreme California Weather Highlights the Importance of Being Prepared (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends



YouTube Live on mobile is finally available but as of right now, if your account has fewer than 10,000 subscribers, you’ll still need to wait to use it. This is certainly not an issue for Amy Schmittauer, owner of a popular and lively YouTube channel that has nearly 57,000 subscribers and climbing.

Get Ready to Live Stream on YouTube Live on Mobile

After following the safe path and securing a position in the corporate world that could ensured her a job for life, Schmittauer discovered her passion for video creation. Creation of her own YouTube channel and experience building communities and using social media communications soon followed. Now — after leaving Plan A to build a life and career on her own terms — Schmittauer hosts Savvy Sexy Social, a YouTube series dedicated to helping you go after the life you want. This proactive lifestyle channel has amassed a community from over 179 countries contributing to more than three million views. Since its inception in March 2011, the show’s business and marketing content has caught the eye of numerous prestigious online publications.

Known for her edutainment style in all the content she creates, Schmittauer has also built a name as an internationally-acclaimed public speaker. A native of Columbus, Ohio, she has had the opportunity to travel the world and has achieved high marks at some of the most influential marketing events including Social Media Marketing World and Hubspot’s Inbound.

Along the way, Schmittauer became an authority in digital marketing consulting and co-founded Aftermarq, a video content marketing agency. After seven years of execution, consulting and continuing to share her life and advice via YouTube, Schmittauer has written the book Vlog Like a Boss: How to Kill it Online with Video Blogging.

Small Business Trends interviewed Schmittauer recently because of her expertise in all things video — including YouTube Live and its new mobile counterpart.

* * * * *

Get Ready to Live Stream on YouTube

Get Ready to Live Stream on YouTube Live on Mobile
Small Business Trends: Is YouTube Live’s user interface relatively friendly?

Amy Schmittauer: On mobile, very friendly and easy to work with. On desktop, you need to be familiar with the tools that are helping you go live: either Google Hangouts or Wirecast. Both can be a little difficult to understand if you haven’t used them before.

Small Business Trends: Is there anything crucial to know before and during using YouTube Live? What about keeping on top of viewer comments?

Amy Schmittauer: Before: This is going to be available for replay so keep that in mind while you’re recording with a live audience. You want to offer them special treatment, but you don’t want it to be a slow, hard-to-follow experience for people who watch the replay. During: Easier to watch the comments in a separate browser tab of the YouTube watch page. Comments can be fast but it depends on the person hosting the stream and how large their following is.

Small Business Trends: On that note, I heard YouTube Live has something called Super Chat. I think I know what it is, but I’m confused, does it benefit the viewer or the broadcaster?

Amy Schmittauer: Super Chat is the ability for a user to pay to have their comment seen more prominently than the rest of the chat for up to 5 hours. It’s a revenue opportunity for creators and is available on all forms of live streaming on YouTube.

Small Business Trends: Who can use YouTube Live on mobile right now?

Amy Schmittauer: All channels can use YouTube Live. Currently channels with 10K subscribers and up are able to use YouTube mobile live.

Small Business Trends: Periscope without “Periscope Producer” is pretty bare bones, so does YouTube Live have those similar limitations meaning a desktop app is needed for enhancements or effects?

Amy Schmittauer: YouTube Live is no different than Periscope without Producer or Facebook without the API. If you are looking for full control of your broadcast, framerates, bitrate, audio quality, camera angles, etc. you will need to go live through third party API access, which we currently do with all of our shows at Aftermarq, it’s just that much better.

Small Business Trends: How’s the quality of YouTube Live? People generally say the video quality of Facebook Live is better than Periscope’s. Can YouTube Live do justice to visual detail in a broadcast, such as zooming in on a printed pamphlet or a garment?

Amy Schmittauer: YouTube Live quality is great in my opinion. It depends on anyone’s internet and equipment situation as well. We had a poor connection on our first YouTube Live and the stream only ever broadcast at 480p, meaning, you aren’t getting much detail.

Small Business Trends: Do you feel YouTube/Google wants more people to go live?

Amy Schmittauer: YouTube definitely wants more live because it keeps them competitive in the space and increases watch time on their platform. Currently average watch time for viewers on mobile is 40 minutes. Live streams help increase that average time of a viewer staying on the YouTube platform.

Small Business Trends: Where should people reach you?

Amy Schmittauer: On Twitter, I’m @schmittastic. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram!

Images: Amy Schmittauer

This article, "Savvy Sexy Social’s Amy Schmittauer Shares Insights on New YouTube Live Mobile" was first published on Small Business Trends



Got a company blog? If you’re a small business, odds are that you don’t. And if you’re a very small business—like 50 employees or less—you’re even less likely to have a blog.

According to the WASP 2017 “State of Small Business Report,” less than 20% of companies with 50 employees or less have a blog. That’s pretty low, given how popular blogs are.

But compare that figure to websites. It’s not widely known, but almost half of all small businesses don’t have a website. So given how few businesses have a website, it’s not too surprising so few of them have blogs.

Honestly, I’m not really surprised by how few companies have blogs. Or that the number of companies that have blogs has gone down in the last year.

Blogs are a lot of work. And there’s way more to them than just publishing content. If you want a successful blog, you’re going to have to publish new content regularly (more on that in a moment). But that’s just the first part. You’re also going to have to promote your blog posts. Then you’ll need to add some lead generation incentives to get people to do more than just read. Without a few really good e-books or other content assets to attract leads, you probably won’t get good results from your blog.

It gets complicated pretty fast. There’s far more to blogs than just pushing out content.

How often are blog posts published?

Speaking of “pushing out content,” let’s talk about one of the primary challenges to maintaining a blog: publishing often enough. Fortunately, some recent surveys show how often marketers tend to publish to their blogs.

Here’s what bloggers said when Orbit Media Studios asked them about their publishing frequency:

Source: 2016 Blogger Research Survey, Orbit Media Studios

Here’s a different take on publishing frequency. This one’s based on B2B companies from a study done by TrackMaven.

Source: How to Build a Better Blog Than Your Competitors: 2017 Blogging Report, TrackMaven

The companies included in the TrackMaven report are much larger than the average firm in either the Orbit Media survey or our own WASP State of Small Business Report. But I’m including this graph here anyway. Why? Because it’s good to know what your competition is doing. This graph also speaks to how intense the competition is in blogging. There’s an enormous amount of content being published every day.

So what does this all mean for you? Well, if you’re a larger company in a competitive industry, it probably means you’ll need to publish several times a week to keep up with your peers. But as some of you might have noticed, 20% of the bloggers in the Orbit Media study publish only a couple times a month; another 20% of them publish weekly.

Which frequency is right for you? Probably the more conservative one. It’s far better to publish less often with higher-quality content than to publish more often with weaker content. Your audience is busy after all—and it’s not like they’re short on reading material. Every small company needs to publish professional quality content if it wants to keep people’s attention. If that means you can only publish once or twice a month, so be it.

But how much time would publishing a blog post once a month take? Or asked another way…

How long does it take to write a blog post?

Not too long, as it turns out. More than a third of bloggers write their posts in an hour or two, according to Orbit Media’s survey of bloggers; the average time came in at about 2.5 hours.

how-long-does-it-take-to-write-a-blog

Source: 2016 Blogger Research Survey, Orbit Media Studios

That’s not too far off from what another survey found. Here are the results from HubSpot’s 2016 “State of Inbound Report.”

Source: HubSpot’s 2016 “State of Inbound Report.”

Knowing the average time required to write a blog post can be valuable knowledge for planning your blogging work (or for assigning it to an employee). If a post takes about 2 to 3 hours to write, then it’s something that can be done in a morning or an afternoon, assuming there are no interruptions.

Take note: 2.5 hours is for the average post. I’d recommend you aim to be above average. Give yourself about 4 hours to write a post.

Of course, how long it takes to write a post depends on how long the post is itself. Fortunately, we’ve got data on that, too:

How many words are in the average the blog post?

Orbit Media reports that most (61%) of blog posts are 500 to 1,000 words long.

That’s in line with what the TrackMaven study found, too:

Both those studies also found that blog posts are getting longer over time. This is probably due to competition—search engines tend to prefer longer content. Some studies have even named 1,500-1,600 words the ideal length for a blog post. That’s the length most likely to get ranked for SEO, to get shares, and to get inbound links—all the things most content marketers want.

Is having a company blog even worth it?

Given how much work this all is … do marketers really say blogging is worthwhile? I’d say yes. So did most of the B2B marketers surveyed by the for their 2017 study. Many of the B2C marketers said the same thing.

Conclusion

I get why so few small companies have blogs—they’re a lot of work, and it takes a special skillset to get results from them. But for the companies that can put in the time, blogging is consistently named as one of the best tactics in marketing today.

So now you know some of the averages for blog production, the time to create posts and more. That means you can better estimate how much work it will take to maintain your own company blog—or to launch it in the first place.

The post State of the Small Business Blog: What 5 Recent Research Studies Reveal appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post State of the Small Business Blog: What 5 Recent Research Studies Reveal appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Brian Sutter.



Most of the guidance you see for entrepreneurs is aimed at those who are selling a product (Apple, Tesla, Xiaomi), or selling a service (Uber, Airbnb, Snapchat). Yet, according to statistics from the Small Business Association (SBA), over half of new businesses offer something else - personal profe
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fintech

Financial technology, also known as fintech, is changing business in a number of ways, and the value it provides for the average investor will only accelerate the transformation. Fintech affects every aspect of the financial sector, may it be investing, money transfers, online purchases or banking.

Let’s look at how fintech startups are completely transforming the world of business and finance:

On Demand Financial Products.

Fintech startups and those who have been in the market for several years are revolutionizing the financial market by offering much faster loan processing. Whether it is a crowd-sourced lending site’s ultra-fast app-based mortgage process, it is increasingly possible to request and be approved for a loan in a matter of hours instead of days or weeks.

Big Data Brings Personalized Services.

Big data has allowed many companies to automate “manual” underwriting. Processes can be automated to generate standard reports on someone’s payment history, bank deposits and other information. This makes manual underwriting almost as automatic as pulling someone’s FICO score and approving or denying a loan on that basis.

Another variation of this is the personalization of insurance through data analysis, allowing drivers to save on auto insurance with pay as you go auto insurance when the tracking devices show that they have safe driving habits. The analysis of “big data” also allows companies to offer insurance to markets that have never had it before, such as offering crop insurance to subsistence farmers for a few dollars per acre to replace their seeds if the harvest is wiped out early in the season.

Payment Processing Via Apps.

One of the biggest advances fintech has brought to small businesses and sole proprietors is allowing them to process payments via apps. For example, Square lets you process credit cards by swiping them and running the transaction through your smartphone. Stripe allows small businesses and individuals to accept Apple Pay. These apps allow Girl Scouts to receive credit card payments and Apple Pay for cookies, while someone at a flea market can use the same apps to sell items to those who don’t have enough cash.

Payment processing via apps is revolutionizing the developing world. Instead of trekking to a Western Union and paying heavy fees to send money home, remittances are increasingly sent via apps to family in the home country and available for withdrawal at an ATM or electronic payments immediately. Processing fees and wait times are reduced for the poorest in the world. Digital payments allow people who’ve traditionally been shut out of the formal financial system to pay utilities and school bills.

Wealth Management and Automated Investing Services.

Automated investing services, also called robo-advisers, use big data and machine learning algorithms to offer personalized advice for a fraction of the cost of a human adviser. These industry-leading online brokerage firms are able to offer advice to their clients anytime and anywhere, while keeping account minimums and fees low.

Cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have a shady reputation due to the anonymity they provide, due to the stories that pop up about ransomware demands for payments in Bitcoin. Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies also offer a way to launder money around financial controls, which is why Bitcoin and other alternative digital currencies saw demand boom as India demonetized and various European Union nations shifted to negative interest rates or even bail-ins. Cryptocurrencies also provide consumers a private way to donate money or buy items without worrying about currency fluctuations.

One side effect of Bitcoin’s Blockchain is the promise it has of providing a more decentralized, transparent and secure way of exchanging money and hard assets. The legal mess created with collateralized home mortgages sold and resold through mortgage backed securities would have been avoided had blockchain technology been used. Now blockchain is used to track money, gems and even vehicle titles.

Conclusion.

Fintech startups are offering financial products like loans in record time while reducing the work required by financial institutions to evaluate risks. Customers get customized offers and personalized service at a fraction of the former cost. Cryptocurrency has received a bad rap but the blockchain technology promises to bring greater transparency and tighter tracking of assets over the long term.

Automated advisers allow investing firms to offer advice at a low cost to most clients, permitting them to operate with lower account minimums and fees, and thereby making it easier for accountholders to keep their investment gains. Big data and artificial intelligence of that data are allowing businesses to assess the risk of serving the unbanked and other traditionally underserved markets.



How to Avoid Double Taxation with an S Corporation

Paying taxes is unavoidable, yet that doesn’t mean you need to pay more than necessary. You can make smart decisions to minimize your tax burden, without running afoul of the IRS.

For small businesses and entrepreneurs, business structure impacts how you pay taxes, and potentially how much you pay as well. The biggest difference is whether the business is its own entity responsible for paying taxes or whether the business’ profits are passed along to the owners’ individual taxes.

How to Avoid Double Taxation C Corporation vs. S Corporation

A C Corporation is taxed as its own entity. The corporation files IRS Form 1120 each year to report its income, deductions and credits. Profits are typically taxed at corporate income tax rates. That’s pretty cut and dry, but where small business owners can run into trouble is through something called double taxation. That’s because when the corporation distributes dividends to the stockholders, these dividends are taxed on the stockholders’ personal tax returns.

If you’re a small business owner and expect to put some of the end of the year profit into your own wallet, the money could end up being taxed twice: first, the corporate profits are taxed at the corporate level and then the distributions are taxed on an individual level.

To avoid double taxation, a corporation can file a special election, called S Corporation election, with the IRS. As an S Corporation, the company itself no longer pays taxes on the profits. Instead, any profit or loss is passed to the stockholders. The stockholders then report their share of the profit/loss on their personal tax returns. If you own 33 percent of an S Corporation, then you’ll need to report 33 percent of the company’s profit with your personal tax return.

From a high level, this “pass-through” taxation is the key difference between a C Corporation and an S Corporation. But there are a few other key details to understand about S Corporations:

  • You’re also able to pass a loss onto your personal income taxes. If the business experiences a loss for the year, you’ll report your share of the loss on your return and this can offset any other income you might have.
  • Stockholders are required to report their percentage of the profit/loss whether or not they actually receive that money as a distribution. So, let’s say you own 100 percent of an S Corporation and it makes X dollars in profit for the year. You decide to keep that money in the business in order to make some big purchases next year. You still are required to report the profit on your individual tax return. If you anticipate keeping a significant amount of money in the business, you may be better off as a C Corporation.
  • S Corporation distributions aren’t subject to FICA/self-employment taxes. This is one tactic that self-employed entrepreneurs use to minimize their self-employment taxes. However, if you have an S Corporation and are actively working in the business, you’ll need to pay yourself a market-rate salary for the work you do. In other words, the IRS won’t let you pay yourself entirely in distributions to avoid self-employment tax.
  • Lastly, we tend to talk about S Corporations in terms of C Corporation vs. S Corporation, so you may be surprised to learn that an LLC (Limited Liability Company) can also elect S Corporation treatment. An LLC already enjoys pass-through tax treatment, which begs the question, why would an LLC ever need to elect to be taxed like an S Corporation? The answer is related to the previous point: the S Corporation allows the owner to divide up the business’s earnings into both salary and distributions. By electing to have your LLC taxed like an S Corporation, you can have pass-through taxation, the minimal formality of an LLC, and be able to take out some profit as a distribution that’s not subject to FICA/self-employment tax.
Who Qualifies for S Corporation Status?

The IRS places strict requirements on S Corporation status, so not every business will be able to qualify. In order to qualify, the company must meet all the following criteria:

  • It needs to be a domestic corporation
  • Shareholders cannot be partnerships, corporations or non-resident aliens
  • You can’t have more than 100 shareholders
  • You can have only one class of stock
  • You need to be an eligible corporation (some financial institutions, insurance companies and domestic international sales companies aren’t eligible).
How to Elect S Corporation Status

Electing to be an S Corporation is relatively simple: you’ll need to file IRS Form 2553. The only catch is the deadline. You need to file Form 2553 no more than two months and 15 days after the beginning of the tax year the election will take effect.

If you want to be treated like an S Corporation for Tax Year 2017 (assuming you follow a calendar tax schedule), you need to file Form 2553 by March 15, 2017. If it’s after March 15, S Corporation treatment will generally begin with calendar year 2018.

As the deadline approaches, think about your company’s business structure and determine if an S Corporation is right for you. A tax advisor or small business expert can help you decide if this is the right course of action for your specific situation.

Finances Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Avoid Double Taxation with an S Corporation" was first published on Small Business Trends



Nobody likes to get audited, but for a small business, an audit can be devastating. Entrepreneurs don't have the time to deal with an extensive IRS investigation, and they also typically can't afford the high-powered accounting and legal help they'd need in order to fight an IRS audit effectively. Because getting audited is such an annoyance, it's useful to see how the IRS picks small businesses for review and how you can try to stay under the audit radar.

Working from home is increasingly popular among self-employed individuals, especially in fields that are well-suited for remote work via the internet. The tax laws provide for such individuals to deduct the expenses that are tied to the use of their home for business purposes, but you have to follow the limitations of the home office deduction closely.

In general, you can take a portion of home expenses like utilities as a deduction based on the portion of your home used for the business. For instance, if you have a 3,000-square-foot home, and your business office is 600 square feet, then you can take 20% of shared expenses as part of the home office deduction, as the office space takes up 20% of your total square footage. In addition, you can claim 100% of certain business-only expenses, such as equipment you use solely in your business.

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



As Bob Kulhan points out in his book, busy executives are turning to the most unlikely sources to gain a competitive advantage. One of those unlikely sources is improvisational theater. While you might assume these executives are trying to get some much-needed comedic relief, Bob Kulhan points to something deeper. There is a talent present in good improv actors that he believes business leaders can tap into for powerful results. That talent is the subject and focus of Getting to “Yes And”: The Art of Business Improv.

What is Getting To “Yes And” About?

Most of us associate improv with comedy (the popular American show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway,” for example) or a last-ditch effort to keep things from falling apart. But Bob Kulhan is pointing to a deeper type of improvisation in his book. This is the kind of improvisation you see when a trained professional like an ER doctor, Navy SEAL, professional athlete (or an improv master) takes command of a situation spinning out of control. Kulhan argues that this level of improvisation is needed by business leaders who face a chaotic and uncertain future. By developing and practicing improvisation in addition to the skills they already possess, business leaders can spend less time reacting when an unexpected situation hits and more time adapting.

Developing an agile business, however, begins with developing the right culture. The right culture begins with the right team, something Kulhan experienced firsthand while working in an improv troupe. Even though an improv session might seem like a sporadic and uncoordinated event, it is actually a highly coordinated dance between expert performers who know each other’s strengths and weaknesses well. Likewise, in business, a team should be highly coordinated, experts in their particular areas and aware of their team’s strengths and weaknesses in order to pull off an effortless performance.

Once a business has its foundation of optimized teams, the next skill to add is improvisation,When an improv actor is given a line, they have seconds to answer. Likewise, in a business situation, you may only have minutes (or less) to answer. That’s why improv actors and business leaders need to train. Improvisation exercises sharpen decision-making abilities under pressure. While you may not be able to predict unexpected situations to the last detail, you can train your reactions so that you focus on what’s most important.

Kulhan is the founder and CEO of Business Improv, a business improvisation and strategy consulting company and also serves as adjunct professor at Columbia and Duke Universities. He was instrumental in introducing business improv to Duke University and serving as one of the first core faculty of Second City, one of the most popular comedy clubs and improv schools in the U.S. In addition to all of the above, he enjoys cooking, scuba, and jiu-jitsu.

What Was Best About Getting To “Yes And”?

The best part of Getting to “Yes And” is the unique approach Kulhan offers business leaders for dealing with the future. The disruptive nature of the future is a very common theme echoed in just about every business-oriented book. Most books focus on the technical and operational aspects of this future. Getting to “Yes And” focuses on the people themselves. Essentially, the book answers the question, “How do individual workers prepare for a disruptive future if they don’t practice improvising for it?”

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Getting to “Yes And” offers a unique perspective on the “prepare for disruption” theme at the individual and team level. In the rush to focus on that disruptive future, many authors are quick to point out the need to prepare without telling readers how. This book, to its credit, goes a bit further. More attention, however, might be brought to integrating the improvisation into overall leadership development and succession planning.

Why Read Getting To “Yes And”?

Getting to “Yes And” is an unexpected book arriving at just the right time. Focusing in on the unique power of improvisation, Kulhan provides a fun and targeted way for individuals to develop the mental agility required to do business in a chaotic business world. The book is best suited for leaders and managers in businesses where team members suffer from fixed patterns: siloed behavior, overly negative or pessimistic thinking, or a lack of innovation. Kulhan’s fresh approach to innovation using a time-tested technique might be just the thing to start the conversations and establish the mindset needed to spark a creative revolution in your office.

This article, "The Book “Getting to Yes And” Shows How to Use Improv in Business" was first published on Small Business Trends



Twenty three year-old Stefan Warnaar, a chemical engineering graduate, was inspired to start his clothing business while on his OE. Warnaar tells Aimee Shaw about about competition and sustainability in the retail space. A brief...

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pexels-photo-28462The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in America today. Increasing numbers of people are opening their own small businesses in an attempt to gain economic freedom and command their own destiny. Unfortunately, statistics show that ninety-five percent of new businesses don’t last past ten years. New restaurants have even a worse record: fifty percent of them will close within the first year of opening.

Many of these failed business owners might have succeeded if they’d planned and followed an organized process on how to start a business. Even more starkly, there are thousands upon thousands of Americans who never take the risks of entrepreneurship – not because they lack the ideas, but because they don’t know where to start. As Suzy Kassem has told us, “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” In order to help ease fear and mitigate the risk of failure, here are seven steps you should follow before your launch your own new business:

1. Research Your Idea
Ask yourself if there is a market and a demand for your business offering. Your intuition says that there is, but remember that you are unique, and your desires and excitement may not be indicative of the greater population. If research shows there isn’t a sizable market, stop. Go no further. Without demand, there are no sales and your business is doomed. Trying to create a demand for something new is extremely difficult and expensive. “A business that doesn’t make money is a hobby” (Dave Ramsey).

2. Choose a name
Pick a name that describes you and your business. Make it descriptive, distinctive, and eye-catching. Once you’ve picked a name, check with the CIPC to see if the name is available. If so, register it. Keep in mind that the name you choose will help in your reputation building as an owner and successful business person. You will want to register a domain name for your website that matches your business name. It is important enough to match the business name to the domain name that you may want to choose a business name based partially on which domains can be easily and cheaply obtained.

3. Write a Business Plan

Every new enterprise should have a business plan to guide you through the launching process and into the first year of operation. There are many resources that provide outlines and sample business plans you can study. Entrepreneur Magazine has this helpful guide to creating a business plan. Having a detailed plan will help you know what you need to do at every point in your journey.

4. Pricing Your Product or Service 
You need to determine the cost of producing your item before you can peg an asking price for it. You might have the best idea for an item since sliced bread, but if you can’t bring it to market at a competitive price, your business will fail. Study your competition to see what the costs of alternatives might be.

5. Finance Your Venture
The dirty secret of business financing is that the SBA Loan is the cause of most business failures. Debt of any kind is a stranglehold on a business at any stage, and especially in its vulnerable infancy. Successful businesses typically finance their growth and operations organically, meaning they pump profits back into the business repeatedly until it becomes self-sustaining.

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6. Legal Structure
You should consult a tax or business advisor to determine what legal entity you should operate under. Your choice of a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation could be instrumental in the taxes you pay and the long-term life of your business. What you learned about ownership structure in business classes was probably overly simplistic compared to the complicated structure of the business tax code.

7. Determine Your Cash Flow Needs

Cash is king in business, especially if you are going to manufacture an item to wholesale to a retailer. Many small businesses have failed who had a great product but didn’t have the cash necessary to produce large quantities of their product for buyers who only paid on extended terms. Try and secure a line of credit from a bank that will allow you to borrow money for short periods of times in order to cover these periods in between shipment and payment.

There are obviously many other factors you need to consider when opening a new business other than the seven offered above. If you follow these steps, however, and plan, plan, and plan, your chance for success should be greatly enhanced.

 

Rachael Murphey is an entrepreneur and writer on topics of business, finance, leadership, and self-improvement. She has written for Idea Cafe, Reputation Building, and the Odyssey. Rachael currently lives in Denver, CO with her dog Charlie.

The post 7 Steps to Launch Your Small Business appeared first on Blogtrepreneur - For Busy Entrepreneurs.



Video is the new star of a small business’s marketing strategy. In fact, 96% of B2B marketers today engage in video content marketing, and nearly three-quarters of marketers say that video marketing brings positive results to their company.

Video marketing is “efficient” too. “A minute of video is the equivalent of 1.8 million words,” says Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research. Those 1.8 million words translate to roughly 3,600 pages of web content, and if you were creating content at the speed of a single web page per hour, it would take nearly five months to produce enough content to create the same impact as 60 seconds of video.

If you haven’t added video to your marketing mix, here are more reasons why now is the time to push the video play button.

Video ROI vs. Content ROI

An infographic from MarketingProfs shows the key differences in tracking the ROI of text-based assets and video assets. For text-based content, once syndicated, it’s difficult to track their success, but with video, that’s not the case; 40% of video marketers can track various metrics across all channels for video, while 16% of non-video users have that ability.

In addition, the websites of non-video users only convert at 2.9%, whereas the websites of video marketers have a 4.6% conversion rate—representing a 65% increase in conversion rate for videos compared to text-based assets.

Non-video users are also spending an average of $115 per lead, compared to just $93 per lead for companies using video. The companies using video require 37% fewer unique site visits to generate their marketing response.

Video Drives Engagement

Visual content, including photos and videos, drives engagement. One month after Facebook launched the Timeline profile format for brands, companies reported a 65% increase in interactive content (video and photo) engagement. In terms of advertising, the average engagement rate for rich media ads such as video ads is 16.85%, compared to 1.62% for mobile ads, and 2.14% for standard banner ads. Nearly 93% of shoppers say visuals are the most influential factor affecting their purchasing decisions, and the viewers of e-commerce videos are  than non-viewers.

MetLife Hong Kong launched a video marketing campaign titled, “My Dad’s Story: Dream for My Child.” In the video, a father reads an essay his daughter wrote about him. She describes her father as “the smartest,” “most clever,” and “Superman.” She goes on to say she knows he lies about being tired, having money, and having a job—as part of the sacrifices he makes for her. The campaign then directed viewers to visit a website where parents could submit their dreams for their children for a chance to win a three-year endowment plan to save for their children’s college.

This video engaged more than 300 million people, with over 27 million views on Facebook and YouTube: 7 million viewers shared the video, 268 million read about the video through nearly 100 news reports, and 280,000 visited the MetLife microsites in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Malaysia.

Video Helps Brand Awareness

Video can work alongside your other assets to help build brand awareness. In fact, a study by On Device Research showed . That means your video content is likely to get shared across multiple channels, furthering your reach and expanding your brand awareness. The majority of those sharers shared video on Facebook and similar social websites, while 44% simply passed the mobile device to their friend for viewing.

The number of people watching YouTube every day is up 40% year over year since March 2014, and the number of hours people watch YouTube videos is up 60% year of year. YouTube mobile reaches more 18 to 49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S.

Video Improves SEO

It makes sense that because Google owns YouTube, including YouTube videos on your landing pages will help boost your Google ranking. While no one knows exactly what goes into a ranking, we do know it’s a combination of factors. Forrester Research also says the chances of getting a page one ranking with the search engine increases about 50 times with video.

Links also play a role in SEO, and according to SEOmoz, blog posts that include video attract three times the inbound links compared to blog posts that do not include video.

Video: A Smart Marketing Strategy

By taking the time to learn more about video marketing, and analyzing video marketing trends, you can fine-tune your company’s marketing strategy. Use analytics to determine when and where your customers are dropping off turning a video, at what point in the sales and marketing funnel they are driven to make a purchase, etc., and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

Video marketing can take your marketing campaigns to new levels, and when done well, your video marketing ideas can be repurposed to create additional marketing assets that will stretch your budget.

The post 4 Reasons Why Video Is the New Star of a Small Business’s Marketing Strategy appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post 4 Reasons Why Video Is the New Star of a Small Business’s Marketing Strategy appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Megan Totka.



Social media is about more than just words. In fact, grabbing customers' attention with great graphics is a must these days. These three tools will help you make sharp-looking images quickly and easily.
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It's tax season -- the four months when tax and small-business software provider Intuit Inc.  (NASDAQ: INTU) makes most of its profit for the year. On Thursday, Intuit filed its fiscal second-quarter 2017 earnings report and issued a progress report on its tax business so far this year. Tax volumes are well off last year's pace: Let's review the details, as well as management's interpretation, after a look at the headline numbers.

Data source: Intuit 8-K filing.

Image source: Getty Images.

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[Author: [email protected] (Asit Sharma)]



Job interviews can be stressful. The best way to prepare for a job interview is to anticipate—and prepare for—the questions you are most likely to be asked.

So instead of stumbling through a job interview trying to answer questions you didn’t anticipate, check out this list of frequently asked job interview questions so that you can practice articulate and convincing responses to each one of them.

Introductory Questions

The job interview will probably start off with some general introductory questions, such as:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • How did you hear about this job?
  • What motivates you?
Questions About Work History

The interviewer will be very interested in your work experience and how that experience might translate for the open position. So expect questions such as:

  • Can you please walk me through your resume?
  • Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?
  • Can you explain gaps in your work history (if relevant)?
  • Can you describe a difficult work experience and how you handled it?
  • What’s an accomplishment you are proud of?
  • Can you give me an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty in your current job?
  • What is a typical workday like for you?
Questions About the Job Position

You will likely be asked questions that are specific to the position you are applying for, including:

  • Why do you think you will be a good fit for this position?
  • What relevant experience do you have for this position?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • How does this job fit in with your career plans?
  • When could you start work?
  • What’s important to enable you to do a great job?
Questions on Interpersonal Skills

The interviewer will likely want to probe about your work relationships and interpersonal skills with questions such as:

  • Have you ever had problems with a co-worker or supervisor?
  • Do you consider yourself a team player? Can you give me an example of when being a team player was important?
  • Can you give me an example of how you deal with conflict?
  • How would your boss and co-workers describe you?
  • What’s your management style?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Can you describe how you dealt with a problem colleague in the past?
  • If you knew your boss was completely wrong about a particular issue, how would you handle it?
Questions About the New Company

The interviewer might ask you a variety of questions about the new company to see if you have done your due diligence. So anticipate these types of questions:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Have you tried our product? What are your thoughts about it?
  • Do you know any of our employees?
  • What do you think of our company website?
Questions on Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The interviewer will likely ask potentially difficult questions to gain insight into your strengths and weaknesses, including:

  • What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
  • How do you deal with high-pressure situations?
  • What is your greatest professional achievement?
  • What do you consider to be your weakness?
  • What one thing would you like to do better? What’s your plan for improvement?
Questions on Compensation

You will likely be asked salary/compensation questions, such as:

  • What is your current compensation (salary and bonus)?
  • What are your salary requirements for this position?
  • Why would you take a job for less money (if relevant)?
Concluding Questions

There likely will be some concluding questions at the end of the interview, such as:

  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • Are there any questions that I should have asked, but didn’t?
  • Is there anything you want to add that we didn’t cover?

 

See Related Articles at AllBusiness.com:

Copyright © by Richard D. Harroch.  All Rights Reserved.

Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on investing in Internet and digital media companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, Fox Business, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and entrepreneurship as well as the co-author of Poker for Dummies and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, and venture capital. Richard can be reached through LinkedIn.

The post The 40 Most Frequently Asked Job Interview Questions appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post The 40 Most Frequently Asked Job Interview Questions appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Richard Harroch.




The best methods for marketing a small business today aren’t the same methods that were used 10 years ago.

To learn the newest and most effective methods for growing and maintaining a small business, you need to branch out. And business conferences like ICON17 can be a great way to do just that.

ICON17 is a 3-day conference specifically for small business owners. There, you can listen to keynote speakers, attend educational breakout sessions and network with other entrepreneurs. You can also receive Infusionsoft product training and learn all about how to improve your marketing and operations for the future.

You can learn more about ICON17 in the Featured Events section. Then check out even more small business events that might be of interest in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.



Featured Events, Contests and Awards


March 20, 2017, Las Vegas, Nev.

If finding, nurturing and converting quality leads are essential to your business’s growth and success, then LeadsCon is perfect for you. 5000+ people rely each year on LeadsCon (Las Vegas & New York) for unparalleled insights and access to marketing leaders. The opportunities to do business at LeadsCon Las Vegas are going to be greater than ever before – so don’t miss out on the connections and knowledge that will give you an advantage on the competition. Secure your spot at the premier gathering of performance marketers and lead gen professionals from around the world.


EntreLeadership 1-DayEntreLeadership 1-Day
April 11, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Grow yourself, your team & your profits! At EntreLeadership 1-Day, you will learn the six essentials of business: leadership, people, money, time, team, and higher calling. Dave Ramsey will be joined by business experts Chris Hogan & Christy Wright.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ10 ($10 off)


ICON17ICON17
April 25, 2017, Phoenix, Ariz.

ICON17 is a 3-day conference for small business owners. It’s packed with inspiring keynote speakers, educational breakout sessions on modern business strategies, sales & marketing best practices, Infusionsoft product training, networking.


TECHSPO Toronto 2017TECHSPO Toronto 2017
May 18, 2017, Toronto, Ontario

TECHSPO Toronto 2017 is a 2-day technology expo which takes place at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. TECHSPO Toronto brings together developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, innovators and evangelists looking to set the pace in our advanced world of technology. TECHSPO Toronto 2017 promises to be better than ever and we’re excited to see all the amazing tech companies and talent that will be joining.


Secret KnockSecret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.


Sales World 2017Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!


DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 - Digital Marketing ConferenceDIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.


More Events More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.
Image: Small Business Trends

This article, "Bring Your Business Into the Future at ICON17" was first published on Small Business Trends




When running a small business, it can be easy to overlook some things. Little things like social media profiles, customer insights and even your own happiness can make a big difference, even though they might not always be your main focus. Gain some valuable tips and insights by following the advice below from members of our small business community.

Avoid These Overused Buzzwords on Your Social Media Profiles

When creating your social media profiles, it’s important that you accurately describe yourself and your business. But there are some overused buzzwords that can make your profile fade into the background, like the ones listed in this Prepare 1 post by Blair Evan Ball.

Boost Conversions With the Right Customer Insights

Having insights about your customers can be incredibly helpful when it comes to increasing your sales and conversions. But you need the right insights in order to make those positive changes. This Kissmetrics post by Shayla Price includes some insights about finding the right customer data.

Access the Ultimate Productivity Hack — Happiness

You can’t hope to get much done in your business if you’re constantly stressed and unhappy. That’s why this Fundera Ledger post by Eric Goldschein suggests that the ultimate productivity hack may just be happiness. BizSugar members also discuss the post here.

Repurpose Your Content Like a Champion

Once you create content, you don’t have to let it just disappear into the archives after a week or so. You can actually repurpose it later to get even more of a benefit. This Search Engine Journal post by Danny Goodwin outlines how you can repurpose your old content.

Create Effective Calls to Action

Creating great content and marketing materials is a great start for gaining customers. But if you don’t have effective calls to action, your marketing isn’t likely to be as effective as possible. In this MyBlogU post, Ann Smarty discusses some methods you can use for creating effective calls to action.

Show Yourself Some Love as a Business Owner

You can’t hope to grow a successful business if you don’t take care of yourself. To show yourself some love and help your business in the process, check out the tips in this CorpNet post by Nellie Akalp.

Write Blog Posts Your Audience Will Love

When blogging for your business, it’s important to always keep your audience in mind. If your audience doesn’t love your posts, then blogging isn’t likely to do your business much good. So this Blogging Wizard post by Elna Cain includes tips for writing posts your audience will love. And you can also see commentary about the post over on BizSugar.

Use These Smart Investment Strategies for Entrepreneurs

If you’re going to invest in your business, you need to make sure that you have a smart strategy for doing so. This GetEntrepreneurial.com post by Ethan Theo outlines some smart investment strategies that entrepreneurs can use to better their businesses.

Create an Invoice That Will Get Paid

The last thing you want as an entrepreneur is to provide a service or fill an order and then just not get paid. For that reason, you need to make sure your invoices are optimized to ensure payment. In this Noobpreneur post, Tara Miller shares some tips for creating invoices that will actually get paid.

Don’t Deter Customers With Incomplete Content

Great content can give your business a boost. But bad or incomplete content can actually have the opposite effect. This Target Marketing post by Heather Fletcher details how incomplete content can turn shoppers away, and what your business can do about it.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: [email protected]

Overook image via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Important Business Tips You Shouldn’t Overlook" was first published on Small Business Trends



50 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas Your Customers Will Love

Want to improve your community and help your business at the same time? You can accomplish both of those things and more through random acts of kindness.

It might not seem like these simple acts should be at the top of your priority list. But being helpful and kind can really improve your reputation with customers. Here are 50 random acts of kindness your customers are sure to love.

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas to Delight Your Customers Put a Handwritten Note in Shipped Packages

If you have an eCommerce business, your shipments can provide a great opportunity for random acts of kindness. Put handwritten thank you notes or other kinds of sentiments inside packages along with customers’ purchases.

Send Out “Just Because” Discount Codes

Discounts are popular for drumming up business. But they can also be a great way for you to show appreciation and kindness to customers. Send out some unexpected discounts to customers via email or social media just to say thanks.

Offer to Wrap Gifts

For local retail businesses, you can offer to wrap items that your customers plan to give as gifts at no extra charge.

Carry Purchases Out for Customers

If customers purchase a lot of items or anything that might be especially heavy, offer to help them carry it out to their vehicle.

Send Thank You Notes

When customers make especially big or recurring purchases, send them an unexpected note to thank them for their business.

Encourage Your Team to Give Compliments

Your team can also be a great resource for showing kindness to your customers. Encourage them to do the simple things like compliment your customers.

Compliment People Within Your Team

By that same token, your team might be more likely to pass along kindness if you’re also kind to them. So be sure to share kind thoughts with them regularly.

Send Tokens to Local Kids

To help those in need, you can send sample products or small gifts to kids in local hospitals or shelters.

Start a Donation Program for Purchases

You can also show some kindness by giving money to worthy causes. Start a program where you donate a portion of purchases to a specific cause.

Offer Delivery When Conditions Might Prohibit Some Customers from Driving

If you have a snow storm or other weather event in your area that could prohibit some elderly customers from leaving their homes, offer to bring food or other purchases to them instead.

Donate Unused Food Items at the End of the Day

For businesses that sell food items, you can make a difference in your community by donating any unused food items to local soup kitchens or food pantries at the end of each day.

Send Helpful Articles

You can also show kindness by sharing information. Send helpful articles to customers or others online when you think it’s something that might interest them.

Offer a Free Service for Local Homeless Residents

To help those who don’t have shelter in your area, you could offer free or discounted food items specifically for those in need.

Start a “Pay It Forward” Program

Or you could help your other customers make a difference by offering a “pay it forward” option where your customers can purchase an extra meal, coffee or other product to be given to someone in need at a later time.

Offer a “Pay What You Can” Structure

You could also offer a system where customers can simply pay whatever they can for your food or products, so that people who can’t afford much can still purchase what they need. And then those who can afford more have the ability to help others.

Leave Grab Bags or Care Packages in Your Lobby

If you want to help those in need in your community without making them actually ask for help, you can simply set out some care packages or grab bags with useful items in your lobby so that people can take what they need.

Really Listen to Customers

Showing kindness doesn’t have to mean offering a tangible item or monetary gift to customers. You can also simply listen to your customers when they want to talk.

Ask Questions

And you don’t have to wait for your customers to bring up issues or things to talk about. Ask genuine questions to get to know them.

Write Positive Reviews of Other Businesses

You can also show some kindness to other businesses in your community by leaving positive reviews for other businesses that you’ve patronized. This can help you create strong connections and even help your reputation around town.

Post an Inspirational Quote Each Day

A simple quote or positive thought can also go a long way toward creating a kind and positive atmosphere for your customers.

Donate Old Supplies or Inventory

If you have any old supplies or inventory that you’re not using anymore, donate it to community causes instead of simply throwing it away.

Host a Collection for Customers to Donate

You can also get your customers in on the donation efforts by hosting a collection or drive where they can bring in old items to donate to specific organizations or causes.

Let Girl Scouts Sell Cookies at Your Business

Or you can even let groups hold their own fundraisers at or outside your business. For example, let local Girl Scouts set up a cookie table near your entrance.

Put Out a Donation Jar for Other Causes

You can even keep it really simple and just put out a donation jar to collect change and small donations for specific community causes.

Recycle Items for Customers

Recycling can be another way to give back. And since recycling certain items can be a bit of a pain, you can make it easy for customers by letting them bring in those items and then doing the rest for them.

Start a Team for a Local Charity Walk

There are also plenty of different events and fundraisers, like races, team walks and more that support a variety of different charities. Put together a team of your employees and customers and then promote the event at your business.

Provide Fun Activities for Clients’ Kids

If you have a lot of clients or customers who bring their kids in with them, keep some simple activities like coloring books around to give them something to do.

Include a Fun Gift for Buyers with Kids

You can also provide small gifts for customers’ kids. Even something as small as a sticker or lollipop can make the experience memorable for them.

Follow Up After Purchases

After a customer makes a purchase, check in with them on the phone or via email just to ask about their experience and make sure they’re happy with their purchase.

Remember Customer Names

When talking with repeat customers, remembering their names can make a huge difference. Go out of your way to greet everyone personally whenever possible.

Suggest Products/Services from Other Businesses

You can also improve customers’ experiences even more by providing more than just your own products or services. If you get to know your customers and what they need, you can suggest products or services from other businesses just to be helpful.

Give Unexpected Gifts to Employees Who Provide Great Service

If you want to improve kindness among your customer-facing team members, you can incentivize great service by periodically giving unexpected gifts to those who go the extra mile.

Provide Micro Investments to Other Entrepreneurs

You can also help out other entrepreneurs and your own reputation in the process by supporting other startups or projects through crowdfunding or micro investments.

Offer a Discount for Veterans

To show your appreciation to those who have served or are currently serving, offer a discount on your products or services for military veterans and their families.

Host Special Events on Holidays

You can show your appreciation to a wide variety of customers by hosting just-for-fun events on some holidays. Include little freebies or fun activities like live music that your customers will love.

Teach Customers a New Skill

Or you can provide extra value to customers by teaching a new skill for free. If you own a craft store, for example, host a monthly knitting circle or offer to teach specific sewing techniques to customers who have questions.

Make Helpful Introductions for Clients

Especially for B2B businesses, you can potentially help your clients out a lot by offering to make introductions to others you know within their particular niche or industry.

Provide Free Snacks or Beverages

For businesses that have customers visit in person, provide some free snacks or beverages to them while they browse or wait.

Leave Small Gifts Inside Products

Retail businesses can also provide free tokens or gifts to customers by hiding them inside other products so that they’ll be surprised when they get home.

Send Free Gifts to Social Media Followers

Your social media followers also deserve some random acts of kindness. You can randomly choose a couple of followers periodically and contact them to send a free gift.

Let Followers Nominate Others to Receive Free Gifts

Or you can be more strategic and let your followers nominate their friends or family members and explain why they deserve a free gift. Then choose the most deserving recipients.

Send Regular Compliments to Customers on Social Media

If you don’t have the resources to send actual gifts to people, you can still spread kindness on social media by simply complimenting your customers when they share helpful or interesting posts.

Post Random Acts of Kindness Ideas on Social Media

You can also encourage others to perform random acts of kindness by posting an action or idea each week on social media.

Write Nice Blog Comments

If you read or follow any blogs in your industry, you can spread some kindness by sharing nice, positive comments.

Plant a Tree

Planting trees can be a great way to help your community and the environment. You can even make it into a big event and invite customers or clients.

Clean Up a Park

Or you can help out by hosting local cleanup effort at a park or other outdoor space in your area.

Sponsor a Highway

Many highways accept business sponsors to help fund cleanup and maintenance efforts. So you could take part as a way of supporting your local area.

Provide Support for Local Events

Or you could sponsor local charity or educational events by providing funding or necessary supplies.

Let Customers Post on a Community Bulletin Board

To give your customers a way to easily share their own information about causes or local initiatives, set up a community bulletin board in your store or office lobby.

Put Up Posters for Charity Events

You can also put up posters or informational flyers about local events, charities or causes to support those initiatives and keep your customers informed.

Heart Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "50 Random Acts of Kindness Your Customers Will Love" was first published on Small Business Trends



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This post is sponsored by Microsoft in honor of National Entrepreneurship Week February 20 to 24, 2017. On this episode, I co-host with Melanie Gass from Microsoft and our guest is Karen Martell who discusses how commerce is a democracy for all small business.

Years ago, it was incredibly difficult for any small business to accept credit cards. Fast forward ten years and it is easier than ever as a result of one company revolutionizing this part of the business for entrepreneurs. Karen talks about how, for the last eight years, Square has focused on the importance of democratizing commerce to make sure entrepreneurs have access to the same tools and resources that larger businesses were always able to employ. Small businesses have increasingly turned to Square because it is a turnkey mobile solution that goes everywhere. It makes it easy to keep track of customer transactions at the point of sale.

Listen to this radio segment with Karen Martell on the show #418.

Karen Martell leads marketing and partnerships for Square and has worked at the intersection of technology and small business for the past 10 years.

Melanie Gass, Sr. Business Development Manager for Microsoft and the brainchild behind National Entrepreneurship Week . She helps shape Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) to deliver strong value to customers and influencers.

 

The post Commerce is Now a Democracy for All Small Businesses appeared first on Barry Moltz.



If you let it, social media can consume an inordinate amount of your time. So don’t let it! (Photo: Thinkstock) Face it, some days you wish social media would just go away so you can get back to running your small business. Sure, you like Facebook for keeping up with family and friends, but what the heck are you supposed to post about your storage unit business? Instagram and Pinterest are great for pretty pictures, but you’re a plumber — what’s pretty about that? LinkedIn is terrific for networking for professionals, but you do garden landscaping. And what the heck […]


Create a More Reliable Lead Generation System with Leadsology Leads are the lifeblood of any business. Without them, marketing is a confusing game of “create something and throw it out to the world and see what happens”. Getting those leads, however, is one of the biggest obstacles a business will ever face. All kinds of marketing and sales techniques have been developed to get leads (cold calling, direct mail, coupons, social media, cute cat videos, etc.), but it’s still not any easier.

Leadsology: has a system for that (if you provide services.) The book walks readers through crafting a more reliable lead-generation system.

What is Leadsology About?

Leadsology is a cute name for a system developed by Tom Poland for service providers, whether you are a freelance graphic designer or an internal sales member of a Fortune 500 consulting company. The book’s goal is to help you understand why you’re not generating leads, how many leads you need to generate, and how to direct those leads toward close and referral.

The process to more leads begins with a better understanding of why leads aren’t showing up in the first place. Tom Poland argues that a big reason for lackluster lead generation is the way we’re approaching them. Many service providers assume the issue is marketing or some aspect of the product. If they just say the right words or have the best-looking website, they’ll be able to pull in more clients. This excess focus on creating lead magnets (like social media, blogs, podcasts, Google ads, etc.) might help in the short-term, but they are not part of a sustainable lead generation system.

Another issue behind lackluster leads is the message carried across in the marketing. Marketing as a service provider requires sharing who you are and what you do, who will best be helped by what you do, and how you will help improve their lives. Many business owners and sales people focus on the first two parts of the previous sentence (who they are and who they can help) without providing a clear statement about how they will help. Without that key statement of value, there is no immediate call to action.

Tom Poland continues throughout the book to explore how issues, like inconsistent marketing, affect the quality and number of your leads. Along the way, he provides resources or specific recommendations on how to tailor marketing into a strategic (versus occasional) lead-generation machine.

 is a serial entrepreneur who started five businesses (selling four of them.) He is also a speaker, consultant and author. Currently, he serves as the founder and owner of the 80/20 Center and Chief Leadsologist at Leadsology, a consulting firm.

What Was Best About Leadsology?

The best part of Leadsology is the customized advice Poland provides for service providers, especially sole providers who are looking for a way to improve sales leads without expensive marketing budgets or even time. Poland argues in his book that his lead generation system can be maintained with a scheduled weekly period he calls “Marketing Day”, which focuses scheduled time for a specific profitable and lead-generating activity each week.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

While Leadsology is definitely geared toward minimal marketing, it can take a while to develop the system the book advocates. Having such a system requires deep knowledge of your own skills and the needs of your clients, which takes some time to develop. The Leadsology system isn’t something that a beginner can pick up from scratch. It’s designed more for experienced freelancers and sales professionals who work directly with clients.

Why Read Leadsology?

Effective and higher-value lead generation is often a topic for sales professionals trying to push their clients through a sales funnel. Leadsology isn’t one of those books. While it doesn’t discount the funnel, the book argues that passively waiting for leads (especially as a sole practitioner) won’t cut it. Instead, Poland suggests that service professionals (like writers, consultants, etc.) focus on creating and maintaining an active system of lead generation built with a minimal investment of time and a maximum amount of output. Leadsology walks readers through that system and shares how to adopt the proactive mindset that will keep that system going for the life of your business.

This article, " " was first published on Small Business Trends



In the right context and deployed shrewdly, outsourcing can be a fantastic way for small business owners to improve efficiencies and bolster their company's bottom line. But that doesn't mean the practice isn't without its own disadvantages, too. To help you get started, here are 20 advantages and
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The best marketing campaigns go above and beyond to resonate with consumers. Here are five businesses that take different approaches in their campaigns.
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Businesses that deal with recreational marijuana in states where it has been legalized may be in for a tough road ahead.

Even in states that have voted to legalize recreational use, marijuana is technically illegal on a federal level. A 2014 law protects states that have legalized medical marijuana use from federal interference. But the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational use don’t have those same protections.

Marijuana Business News Signals Troubles Ahead

The Obama administration generally respected those state laws when it came to drug enforcement issues. But it might not be the same under President Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a staunch opponent of marijuana legalization in the past. And Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer recently said that he thinks more enforcement is forthcoming.

It’s a tough situation for businesses that operate in the states where recreational use has been legalized and where they haven’t faced much in the way of enforcement up to this point. These businesses, for the most part, have been trying to do things in a legal way. But the federal law hasn’t kept up with changing state laws. So businesses may have to make serious adjustments in order to stay viable in the coming years.

Marijuana Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Marijuana Businesses Could Face Struggles in the Coming Years (Watch)" was first published on Small Business Trends



If you want to start a business with a bang, outsourcing must be a part of your strategy. Any startup is a complex machine, and the more parts it has the harder it will be running. Delegating some business activities from the beginning can give you the edge necessary to push forward on the market.

The advantages of outsourcing are obvious - it’s cheaper, simpler, and allows you to save time. Note that 69% of entrepreneurs in the US alone build their business from home. So, delegating allows you to start with a full team. You also need to know that 46% of small businesses fail due to incompetence. Outsourcing cuts your costs, so you have more money left to hire better professionals. This alone can make a difference for your startup success.

How much outsourcing will benefit your business depends on whether you choose the right types of jobs to share.

Delegating for Maximum Gains

What Startups Should Delegate Right Off the Go IT Development

Top-quality software makes a business run smoother. It can help you attract clients and enhance your brand, for example, through custom mobile apps. Personalized app creation will increase the overall efficiency of your company because it’s made to meet your specific needs. In addition, these software programs can be the ones to make your startup unique. For example, it became a value proposition for Uber when it first appeared with its groundbreaking app.

Employing top-quality software developers full-time is extremely expensive, so no startup can really afford it. Delegating solves this problem, but in order to succeed in this, you must know how to outsource software development wisely. You have to choose a service provider that:

  • Has experience in the kind of service you need
  • Offers a wide range of creative services
  • Sets reasonable rates
  • Has a proactive team that can help you come up with the best solutions

Consider working with a scalable development service provider. This kind of company would be able to meet your IT needs after your startup grows. This would help you save time on finding new IT professionals.

Accounting

Bookkeeping and taxes are inevitable hassles of any business. However, they are very difficult for non-professionals to understand. Any mistakes with records or taxes can lead to serious financial and even legal problems. Therefore, you must make sure your accounting is in a perfect condition.

Today, you can use simple, cloud-based accounting software, like QuickBooks or Zoho Books. However, even this requires time and skills.

Outsourcing your accounting completely allows you to remove one of the hardest parts of running a business. With a reliable bookkeeping service, you won’t have to worry about any legal and financial issues. This enables you to focus on the company’s development completely.

The main quality to look for in an accounting service provider is reliability. Be sure to check their reviews and get some references.

Web Design

A top-quality website is a must nowadays as over 90% of consumers start their search for products and services online. There are billions of web pages on the Internet, so getting noticed would be hard. You also need to consider that the design trends for websites are as fleeting as in the world of fashion.

Outsourcing this type of service enables you to get web design created by some of the best specialists in the industry. A cutting-edge ‘online look’ is necessary to earn your startup a good name from its first day.

When delegating web design services, focus on the provider’s portfolio. Research the current trends in the industry and take a look at how this company implements them.

Digital Marketing

Every good business needs a team of marketing experts that would work on it full-time. For your digital promotion strategy to be effective, it must be comprehensive. This means someone has to deal with regular updates for:

  • Social media accounts (for every network that matters)
  • Email promotion campaigns
  • Blog posts
  • Website content

These are only the updates that must happen at least every other day. However, digital marketing also includes content development, SEO, press release distribution, and dozens of other tools. A single person sitting in your office wouldn’t be able to handle all of this effectively. This would reduce the overall efficiency of your marketing strategy.

Outsourcing gives you a chance to get the services of a complete marketing team for a fraction of a price.  Look for agencies with a good reputation and a wide array of services. You must hire a flexible company that would adjust to the changing needs of your developing startup.

Customer Service

The consumers of today are so demanding that no business can succeed without providing top-quality customer service. You can cut down the costs a bit by automating some aspects of the process. For example, using chatbots to answer common questions on the website.

However, you should offer your customers a call center to help them resolve any issues as quickly as possible. This would boost the overall level of satisfaction and increase their loyalty, which is essential for a new business.

Outsource to call centers with a good reputation and proof of their high communication skills. Remember that over 60% of customers leave a brand after having a single negative customer service experience. It also takes 12 positive experiences to overwrite 1 negative. Therefore, you must make sure that the customer service company you entrust your clientele is trustworthy.

Outsourcing in Startup: Boost Your Business from the Beginning

Starting a business in any field is a challenge, especially today when competition is vicious in every niche. This means you must use your resources most efficiently, and outsourcing allows you to do this. Delegating enables you to get the services of highly qualified professionals that you cannot afford at this time. It also allows you the time you need to train your own specialists in different areas.

When outsourcing, you must focus on the quality of the service providers you hire instead of the price. You need their help to give your business a kickstart that would propel it to the top of the niche right away. This means you must have the best of everything. This kind of initial investment should provide you with the customers and profit necessary to sustain the top quality of service.

Look for long-term partners you can delegate some activities too. This will help you avoid problems caused by the need to find a replacement.

Image: Shutterstock



Social media platforms are constantly updating their features. And some of the newest features on popular sites and apps might just have an impact on business users.

For example, Facebook just unveiled a new job board so that businesses can post openings right on the popular social media site. And Yelp launched a question and answer section so that you can respond to some of your customers specific inquiries.

You can read about these latest updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Social Media Facebook Now Allows You to Post Job Openings

Social networking site Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has a history of challenging, if not buying out, its competitors, and now it looks like it’s going after LinkedIn. Starting yesterday, businesses in both the U.S. and Canada could post job listings natively to their Facebook pages or in the new jobs bookmark.

Yelp Q-and-A Solicits More Community Feedback for Your Brand

Whether you have a restaurant or pottery shop, customers will have questions regarding your business. And those answers are not going to be available on your site no matter how thorough you are. That is just a fact. The new Questions & Answers feature from Yelp (NYSE:YELP) gives your customers the answers they need about your business from actual customers or yourself.

Yet Another Platform — Whatsapp — Launches Snapchat Clone

The announcement of Snapchat’s IPO late in 2016 revealed some impressive numbers and growth. Over 2.5 billion Snaps are created by 158 million users each day, and the company’s revenue has increased six fold since 2015.

Fall of PewDiePie Shows Dangers of Controversial Content

When it comes to social media, it’s best to steer clear of controversial content. Or you may run into problems like YouTube star PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg. The popular YouTuber courted controversy after posting a string of videos containing allegedly anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi references.

Economy Self-Employed Creative Pros Outearn Those with Salaries, FreshBooks Says

If you’ve been toying with the idea of pursuing a freelance career, now is a good time to get started. That’s because self-employed professionals are now earning more than their salaried peers. The insight comes from a new report by FreshBooks, a cloud accounting software company for small businesses.

Reports Send Mixed Messages About Staffing Needs of the Future

To hire or not to hire. That’s the big question for cash-strapped small businesses. Recent data sends out two very differing messages about the staffing needs of the future — one short term, the other more long term. So businesses may have mixed feelings about their plans for that next hire.

Green Business Think Big Vehicles Can’t Be Eco-Friendly? Think Again

When you think of electric vehicles, you probably think of a compact car or small sedan. But if you really want to see carbon emissions and fuel consumption lowered significantly, you need to think bigger. More specifically, think of bigger vehicles like semi-trucks, buses and even garbage collection vehicles.

What Your Business Can Learn From Leggings Made of Plastic Bottles

Think about how many plastic water bottles get thrown out each day. Now think about all the possibilities that could come from innovative minds finding new ways to use all that plastic. A company called Girlfriend Collective has found one way to do that. The company uses plastic bottles from Taiwan and turns them into leggings.

Marketing What Should Your Business Do When Google Retires Converted Clicks?

What’s Happening? An update will soon come to the conversion tracking tool in AdWords. Since 2001, AdWords has used “Converted Clicks” to track whether or not users complete desired outcomes on ads and websites. Historically, converted clicks have shown whether or not an ad click led to the desired action on your website, and will be retired in its simplicity.

3 Ways Sales Is Changing With Artificial Intelligence

Technology is the great equalizer. In every industry and in nearly every department, technology is and should be central to performance and achievement capacity. Of course, the frontiers of technology constantly change.

Retail Trends Olive Oil Shortage Could Force Businesses to Develop Creative Solutions

Olive oil prices are rising around the world. The three countries that produce the bulk of the world’s olive oil, Spain, Greece and Italy, have recently been hit with droughts, floods, bugs and bacteria. That means that the olives used to create the product are in short supply, while the demand for olive oil continues to rise.

Delta Thinks the Key to Customer Loyalty is Through Free Stuff

What’s the key to customer loyalty? Well, if you ask Delta, that key involves lots of free stuff. The airline just announced that it will start giving out free meals to all passengers on some of its longest domestic flights starting in March. That’s in addition to the snacks, entertainment options and blankets that are already offered for free on Delta flights.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: Student Loan Club Tries to Ease the Pain for New Grads

If you’ve taken any college classes, chances are you’ve had to deal with student loans. These loans can be especially burdensome for young professionals just getting started in their chosen fields. But there are some options and resources for dealing with them. That’s where Student Loan Club comes in.

Small Business Operations Highlights From the #WinInBiz National Entrepreneurship Week Twitter Chat

It’s a special week for entrepreneurs around the U.S. National Entrepreneurship Week is a weeklong celebration for entrepreneurs and business owners. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and other partners have used the week as an opportunity to put out various resources, events and other offers to help business owners continue growing their ventures.

UPS Upgrades Flex Global View Tool to Help You Better Track Shipments

UPS (NYSE: UPS) recently announced improvements to Flex Global View, its event management and visibility tool for air, ocean and surface freight shipments, to help you better track shipments.

Give Your Business a Boost with the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

Inspiring small businesses are being recognized and rewarded every year. Share what inspired you and your core mission and you could be the next winner. Entering its fifth year, the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards tens of thousands of dollars to passionate small business owners across the country.

Taxes 9 Ways to Get Free Help With Taxes from a Real Live Person

Tax help can cost a lot of money. Pros charge $150 an hour on average to do a federal and state return, according to the National Society of Accountants. Help with planning, back taxes or audits can cost even more. But there are a few ways to get human tax help for free.

Ohio Congressman Says Tax Code Stunting Small Business Growth

House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot voiced his concerns the complexities of the tax code are stunting small businesses and start-ups from growing during a hearing Wednesday. There are provisions in place that penalize entrepreneurs for taking risks with their businesses, according to Chabot.

Technology Trends The Motherbox Wants to Cut the Wires that Bind Your Phone When Charging

The love/hate relationship people have with their smartphones gets very intense at one particular moment: when the battery dies. Even the most prepared person can be caught off guard because of a hectic day, and it is for those and all the other times you feel unconnected that Motherbox was created.

eBay Deploys Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Sellers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming part of our everyday language as more organizations integrate the technology into the products and services they offer. The latest to do so is eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), which according to the company will help its sellers become more competitive.

Why is Everyone Talking About Data Backup? Blame Ransomware

The number of ransomware attacks on businesses and individuals has risen exponentially in recent years. Increasingly, small and midsized businesses are vulnerable to these malware attacks. Their data is essentially locked up, or held hostage, and cybercriminals demand a ransom in exchange for releasing computer files and business documents. The numbers are staggering.

Wix Passes 100 Million Users with Focus on Small Business

The web development company that spent nearly $5 million on a commercial during the Super Bowl just surpassed the 100 million registered users’ milestone. The Israel-based company Wix.com (NASDAQ:WIX) boasts how easy it has made things for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, artists and businesses around the world to create a website using its drag and drop capabilities.

Xero Updates Fixed Asset Depreciation Features

Online accounting software Xero (NZE:XRO), popular with small business users, has updated the Fixed Asset depreciation feature on the platform. Xero Fixed Asset Depreciation The Fixed Assets depreciation feature gives small businesses the ability to track fixed asset and value depreciation for tax and book keeping purposes. In the U.S.

Qualcomm’s New WiFi Technology Should Boost Capacity for Small Business

One of the biggest differentiator’s between a home or small business and a larger enterprise is capacity. And in a world where speed is tantamount to efficiency, enterprises enjoy a commanding lead.

Image: Facebook

This article, "New Features From Facebook, Yelp, WhatsApp and More Announced" was first published on Small Business Trends



What is Porting and What Does It Mean for Your Small Business Phone?

As a small business, continuity is a challenge when you move to a new location. While the physical move will displace some of your customers until they get used to the new location, your phone number can come along with you, meaning you don’t have to get a new one.

Number porting lets you keep your existing landline, wireless or VoIP when you change to a new service provider, whether it is because of a relocation or a better service from another company.

So What is Porting?

Number porting, or porting, is the ability to keep your existing number if and when you decide to move your phone service to another provider.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), if you want to switch to another service provider and you are staying in the same area, you can keep your existing phone number. And the process can be carried out between wireline, IP and wireless providers.

How Do You Get Started?

As a business you may have more than one number, and you can choose to port any or all of the numbers. But before you do, make sure you go over your current contract to determine your liabilities.

Look at your contract to see if there are any early termination fees as well as balances you have to pay before you end your services. And whatever you do, don’t terminate the old service before you start the service with the new company.

Contact the New Company

Once you meet your obligations of your previous contract, contact the new company to start the process of porting your number. This requires providing your 10-digit phone number and any other information the company may require. This will vary from provider to provider.

Generally, a Letter of Authorization (LOA) must be filled out and signed by the authorized user for your current provider to begin the porting process, along with the most recent and correct Billing Telephone Number (BTN).

How Much Will It Cost?

According to the FCC, companies can charge to port your number, and the fees can vary from provider to provider. The agency’s website says you can ask for a waiver or negotiate the fees.  However, most of the major operators don’t charge any fees.

The FCC also says a company cannot deny to port your number because you have not paid for porting. When you request the service of a new company, the FCC says the old company cannot refuse to port your number. This is even if you have any outstanding balance or termination fee.

How Long Does it Take to Port a Number?

This will depend on how many phone numbers you have, the operator, and the type of service, such as landline, wireless and IP. It can take anywhere from hours for wireless services all the way up to 10 days for IP and landline.

Again, this will depend on the type of service you have with your old provider and the type of porting, so make sure to take this into consideration before changing to a new company.

The Transition Period

The FCC warns there will be a transition period in which you will have two numbers when you port from wireline to a wireless number. The agency recommends users to ask if you will continue to use your current wireline number during the transfer process, however long it takes.

This is important because wireless 911 location and call back services can be affected during the transition. The FCC wants you to ask your new company if your 911 service will be affected during the process.

Another service that will be impacted during the transition period is long distance service. Your landline or wireline long distance company is not going to move with you, so make sure your new company has a plan you can live with.

You Can’t Always Port Your Number

The FCC says it is not always possible to port your number to a new geographic area when you change providers. This is the case in some rural areas, which will require you to contact your state public utilities commission for further information.

Small Business Identity

Your business phone number is one of the identifying features of your company. Just like your address, logo and other identifying features, your number, especially if it is a vanity number, is a great way for your customers to identify with you and build a relationship.

So if you have to move, make sure you port your number with you to continue that relationship.

Using Phone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is Porting and What Does It Mean for Your Small Business Phone?" was first published on Small Business Trends



Reading List by Rieva Lesonsky Small Business Articles You May Have Missed This Week

Inspiring Success Stories

 

Marketing

 

Money

 

Sales

 

Tech

 

The post Surprising Impact of Email Marketing, Cash Flow Lending and More appeared first on Small Biz Daily.



If you're looking to monetize your content using affiliate marketing, Affilitizer connects Google searchers with affiliate marketing programs seamlessly.

Affiliate programs provide many people with an income, and if you find the right company and product, it can be lucrative. The developers at Affilitizer want to make the process of finding a company with an affiliate program as easy as scrolling through the search results on Google.

So the question is, is it really that easy?

Small Business Trends installed the extension on Chrome and tried it, and here is what happened.

We first searched for “baby elephant figurines,” figuring (no pun intended) it would be hard to find businesses with affiliate programs that sold them. And this is a screen shot of the result:

If you're looking to monetize your content using affiliate marketing, Affilitizer connects Google searchers with affiliate marketing programs seamlessly.

Where ever you see the Affilitizer triangle is where there is additional information about the company.

So we clicked on the one for Hobby Lobby:

If you're looking to monetize your content using affiliate marketing, Affilitizer connects Google searchers with affiliate marketing programs seamlessly.

And were sent to an affiliate page.

If you're looking to monetize your content using affiliate marketing, Affilitizer connects Google searchers with affiliate marketing programs seamlessly.

It Was Easy to Find Affiliate Marketing Programs

The answer is yes, it is that easy to find an affiliate program to join with Affilitizer, and it is so intuitive and seamless it seems like it is part of Google.

According to the company that created Affilitizer, this app was designed to give bloggers, publishers, webmasters, and influencers an easier way to monetize their content. Let’s face it, monetizing your site, especially when you are starting out, can be very difficult, and affiliates are one way of earning income from your audience.

With Affilitizer, you will have access to more than 61 affiliate networks and 65,000+ affiliate programs with tracking links for Amazon and eBay with just a single click. And the search is made automatically, so you won’t have to spend hours look through the tens of thousands affiliate programs. This includes the private networks and small programs that might not get the same attention as their large counterparts.

No matter which brand or item you search for, Affilitizer finds where they are available as part of an affiliate program and is able to share them at the same time as when Google lists the search result.

Images: Affilitizer

This article, "Affilitizer Claims to Connect Publishers with Relevant Monetization" was first published on Small Business Trends



project tracking

This post is sponsored by Microsoft in honor of National Entrepreneurship Week February 20 to 24, 2017. On this episode, I co-host with Melanie Gass from Microsoft and our guest is Carol-Lynn Grow from Law Tool Box who talks about project tracking inside your inbox.

As much as they try to avoid it, small businesses check their email hourly and it seems to drive the pace of their day. By default, this may be the best place to manage ongoing projects for their company. Carol-Lynn talks about their new product which generates and manages project scheduling inside Office 365. As emails arrives, it helps set deadlines for employee calendars and creates a shared document repository. In a successful business, easy collaboration is not only needed, but required all in one place.

Listen to this radio segment with Carol-Lynn Grow on the show #418.

Carol-Lynn Grow is a co-founder of LawToolBox which is an award winning all-in-one court rules provider and deadline management system provider that helps legal professionals calculate their litigation and other deadlines in state and federal court in 50 states.     

Melanie Gass, Sr. Business Development Manager for Microsoft and the brainchild behind National Entrepreneurship Week . She helps shape Microsoft Community Connections (MCC) to deliver strong value to customers and influencers.

The post Project Tracking Now Enters Your Inbox appeared first on Barry Moltz.



How to Start a Mastermind Group

If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge or networking with other entrepreneurs or professionals in your industry, you might consider starting a mastermind group.

Gail Gardner of Growmap.com is the co-creator of the Blogger Mastermind Group on Skype. Over the years, she’s seen the positive impact that mastermind groups like this can have for businesses and entrepreneurs. And she shared some tips for others looking to start their own groups.

How to Start a Mastermind Group Find Potential Members

The most important part of any group is the members. And that’s the case with mastermind groups as well.

For Gardner, the group started as a forum site that added members over time. When the site got hacked, she decided to switch over to Skype. And then she invited all the members who were still interested in being a part of this type of group.

She told Small Business Trends, “I invited all the original forum members and we’ve been adding people as we come across them ever since. Most of the members are full-time freelancers or serious bloggers. Some are web developers and most own their own sites.”

Welcome New Members

It’s also important that you actually engage with those new members when you find them. There are different methods of doing this. But you should at least send a quick welcome message and tell them a bit about the group.

Gardner says, “When onboarding new members, it is important to make them feel welcome and give them some idea what is acceptable and what isn’t. We have a Blogger Mastermind blog post that explains how the group operates and how to access our collective resources on Skype. When adding a new member, I invite them to share what they do and their website and most used social accounts.”

Be Clear About Expectations

Since most groups are going to have a specific purpose, that also means that there are certain activities that won’t fit into that purpose. That means you need to have some kind of rules or a code of conduct to ensure that the group remains valuable for all members.

Gardner says, “Be clear on the purpose of the group and what is expected. In our case, we make it very clear that there are no requirements and it is not necessary to try to keep up with all the messages. I tell members to think about it like a water cooler. Chat when you can, but don’t worry about reading every message.”

Stick to the Rules

From there, you need to actually come up with a way to deal with any difficult situations when they do arise.

Gardner says, “If someone does things that other members find annoying, Eren [Mckay of Mckay Social] or I will talk to them privately. Most understand that they should not spam or advertise, while sharing a special post or recommending something they find truly useful is encouraged. We have only removed people a couple of times in all the years our group has existed because they persisted in doing something they had been repeatedly asked to stop doing.”

Keep Information Organized

To make the group as valuable as possible, it’s also a good idea to have a system for organizing the information you’ve discussed. This can make it easier for people to provide quick answers or information when people bring up topics that have been discussed at some point in the past.

Gardner says, “We pool our knowledge and resources and save that information onto Trello boards for easy access anytime. As discussions happen, I capture the highlights and organize them by topic. This makes it easy to share any conclusions and tips that come out of our discussions whenever the question comes up again.”

Mastermind Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Start a Mastermind Group" was first published on Small Business Trends



Transitioning from being a full-time employee to an entrepreneur means approaching the way you do taxes differently. For anyone who is new to being self-employed (from a sole proprietor to a part-time business owner), your tax obligations now include filing an annual return and paying an estimated quarterly tax.

What is this tax and how often do you have to pay it, anyway? Here’s what first-time entrepreneurs need to know about their quarterly estimated taxes.

1. What’s the difference between estimated tax and self-employment tax?

Before we go any further, it’s a good idea to define what both of these taxes are and why they matter for self-employed workers, as well as whether or not you need to make a payment.

Estimated taxes. According to the IRS, estimated tax payments are made on income that is not subject to withholding tax. This can include your self-employment income or income like interest, dividends, business earnings, or capital gains, to name a few. While many entrepreneurs often forget to make these payments, it’s important to pay estimated taxes since these taxes pay income tax, self-employment tax, and alternative minimum tax.

Self-employment taxes: Abbreviated as “SE tax,” this covers Social Security and Medicare taxes for self-employed workers, just as these taxes would be withheld from the pay of a regular full-time employee. In order to figure out what you need to pay for this tax, you will need to subtract your business expenses from your business income; this will determine either your net profit or net loss. For a net profit, your expenses need to be less than your income; for a net loss, your expenses are more than your income. For any self-employment earnings that are $400 or more, you will also need to file an income tax return.

2. When do I have to make estimated tax payments?

This all goes back to the tax name: quarterly. Usually, these payments are made in four equal installments. If you make the payments in unequal amounts, note the amount of each payment to keep from underpaying or overpaying the IRS. Overpayments will result in a tax refund while underpayments will mean writing a bigger check to the IRS when you file your tax return.

What happens if you don’t make a payment? Whether you accidentally forget to pay, make the payment late, or don’t pay enough tax, you may be charged a penalty.

3. What forms do I use to pay estimated tax?

You’ll only use one form to calculate and pay your estimated tax: Form 1040-ES (Estimated Tax for Individuals). Keep your previous year’s tax return handy before filling out the form. On this form, you will have to compile your income, deductions, credits, and paid taxes in order to figure out what your estimated tax payment will look like.

Entrepreneurs filling out this form for the first time will have to estimate the amount of income they expect to earn for the year. Payments can be made either electronically through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or through the mail using the blank vouchers included with Form 1040-ES.

4. Are my payments due on a specific date?

Yes! According to the IRS, quarterly estimated taxes are due within four payment periods:

  • January 1-March 31
    • Deadline: April 15
  • April 1-May 31
    • Deadline: June 16
  • June 1-August 31
    • Deadline: September 15
  • September 1-December 31
    • Deadline:  January 15 (of the following year)
5. Is it possible to be self-employed and not pay estimated tax?

There are only a few exceptions to this rule. It’s not necessary to pay estimated tax if you’ve had no tax liability for the prior year, were a U.S. citizen for the whole year, and/or your prior tax year covered a 12-month period.

Additionally, anyone that receives salaries and wages can file Form W-4 with their employer. This form will specify how much more in taxes you’d like to withhold from your earnings to keep you from paying estimated taxes.

The post 5 Questions New Business Owners Need to Ask About Estimated Taxes appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post 5 Questions New Business Owners Need to Ask About Estimated Taxes appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Deborah Sweeney.



By Alice Williams

Operating a home business offers some great advantages, but it can also carry great risks. As a business owner, you assume responsibility for the safety and security of your company. Any accident or break-in threatens not only your personal items and finances, but also the stability of your business.

The potential dangers are both physical and digital: in 2014 there was an average of one burglary every 18.2 seconds and more than 250,000 reported cases of cybercrime. According to Kataku Technology, 62% of cyberattack victims are small- or medium-sized businesses. If you work out of your own home, you can’t afford to get caught by surprise by the myriad dangers targeting your business.

To help you better protect yourself, we’ve recommended six tech tools to secure your home business.

1. Antivirus and Cybersecurity Protection

One of the first things you’ll want to do when setting up your home business is purchase an antivirus software package. Hackers often target small businesses because they have more access to sensitive data than individuals but tend to implement fewer cybersecurity measures than larger companies. Antivirus packages made specifically for small businesses are more robust than packages made for personal use and include additional features like email protection and added security for mobile devices.

2 Home Security System

When your home doubles as your business, the stakes for keeping your house secure are doubled. You’ll need to protect your physical assets as well as your digital assets by protecting both your home and your business with a security system. Home security systems offer a range of features, from motion detectors to professionally monitored indoor and outdoor cameras. Depending on your specific needs and budget for security, you’ll need to decide which options are worth having and which you can do without.

3. Smart Lock

If you have a room dedicated as your home office, you may want to consider investing in a bit of extra security for the room itself: try a smart lock that limits your family’s—and others’—access to your place of business. This can be especially helpful if your home office has a separate entrance that you want to protect. Most smart locks can be controlled via an app on your smartphone and allow you to control who can and cannot enter your office with encrypted virtual keys, keeping your sensitive company information safe from prying eyes.

4 Laptop Lock

Whether or not you add a smart lock to your office door, you may want the extra security of a laptop lock—it’s a low-tech way to deter physical theft of one of your most important devices. Most PCs have a built-in slot for attaching a lock, making it easy to secure your laptop in your home office or on the go. Choose from combination locks, key locks, or even secure docking stations.

5. Fire Resistant Safe

While it may seem a little low-tech, we highly recommend investing in a fire-resistant safe to keep your money, records, tax documents, and other important papers as secure as possible. There’s no such thing as a fully fireproof safe, but you can find safes rated up to several hours of fire resistance. We recommend investing in a safe with a fire-resistance rating of at least 30 minutes—any less won’t provide adequate protection against a home fire. Look for a safe that is secure and large enough to fit your current and future storage needs.

6. Paper Shredder

Even if you do most of your transactions online, you’ll still have hard copies of receipts, invoices, statements, checks, and other documents with sensitive financial information. Don’t risk compromising your account information or that of a client—invest in a paper shredder to keep sensitive documents safe from thieves, dumpster divers, or nosy neighbors. Always shred your tax documents, credit cards, and other sensitive information before throwing them out.

Running your own business is hard enough, don’t take unnecessary risks with your livelihood. Investing in these items will help to keep your business safe and secure.

Alice Williams has written in-depth on a wide variety of topics which include business, technology and social media. She has a masters degree in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University. Follow her at @1alicehw.

 

The post 6 Secure Tech Tools for Your Home Business appeared first on Small Biz Daily.



The Motherbox Wireless Charger Wants to Cut the Wires that Bind Your Phone When Charging

The love/hate relationship people have with their smartphones gets very intense at one particular moment: when the battery dies. Even the most prepared person can be caught off guard because of a hectic day, and it is for those and all the other times you feel unconnected that Motherbox was created.

A Look at the Motherbox Wireless Charger

Currently on a funding campaign on Indiegogo, Motherbox has already met its goal with 22 days left on the drive.  MotherBox and MotherBox Mini are the first wireless chargers that are truly wireless the company says. You will be able to charge your Android and iOS device at the same time without any cables.

The popularity of the device highlights the need for this type of solution because of the current reliance on smartphones for business and leisure. As the gap on all the other specs of mobile devices continues to shrink, battery capacity and charging options and technology are becoming key differentiators.

Motherbox charges your battery through a thin receiver that plugs into the power port of your smartphone. It is placed on the back of your phone before you put the case on, so it is thin. You then download the app and connect your chargers.

Motherbox Wireless Charger Receiver

Plug the MotherBox wireless charger into an outlet and it can charge up to four devices at the same time, developer claims. This from a device that weighs only four pounds.

The smaller version of this device, the MotherBox Mini weighs only three pounds, and it will have at least 7,000-mAH of juice to charge your smartphone, according to the specs. The Mini can be connected through a USB cable so it can be charged on the go. The app that comes with the charger sends you push notifications when its battery is getting low, so your backup doesn’t fail you

Motherbox Wireless Charger - Available Sizes

While the campaign is still going on, you can get The Motherbox for a contribution of $89 and the Motherbox Mini for a contribution of $99. Or you can get both of them for a contribution of $159, with shipping slated for September 2017.

Images: Indiegogo/Motherbox

This article, "The Motherbox Wants to Cut the Wires that Bind Your Phone When Charging" was first published on Small Business Trends



Diversifying Business Cartoon

The idea here was to expand on the ear, nose, and throat thing and include some other part of the body. Elbow ended up being the funniest, but here’s a few options I threw out:

Forehead
Dimple
Belly Button
Pinky Toe
Chest Hair
Oxford Comma

See what I mean? Elbow is totally the right choice.

This article, "Be Careful When Expanding Your Offerings" was first published on Small Business Trends



9 Ways to Get Free Help With Taxes from a Real Live Person

Tax help can cost a lot of money. Pros charge $150 an hour on average to do a federal and state return, according to the National Society of Accountants. Help with planning, back taxes or audits can cost even more. But there are a few ways to get human tax help for free.

Where to Get Free Help With Taxes 1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

What it is: A federal grant program that helps community organizations provide free tax-prep services to low- and moderate-income individuals, the disabled, the elderly and limited-English speakers.

How it works: Taxpayers can get face-to-face help from local, IRS-certified volunteers. Generally, the income limit is $54,000. Volunteers won’t prepare the Schedule C (sorry, freelancers), the complex Schedule D (sorry, investors) or forms associated with nondeductible IRA contributions, investment income for minors, premium tax credits, requests for Social Security numbers or determinations of worker status.

“In a lot of communities, [people] can just dial 211 to find out information about the nearest VITA site and get more information about whether or not they qualify,” says Rebecca Thompson, project director of the taxpayer opportunity network at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, which focuses on fighting poverty.

Get help from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

2. Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

What it is: A federal grant program that gives money to community organizations to provide people with free tax help. Although the program was established to help people 60 and older, and still prioritizes serving them, there’s actually no minimum age requirement. Trained volunteers provide the assistance.

How it works: Similar to VITA, community organizations and nonprofits use the grant money to provide help. Most TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program.

“The TCE program and the VITA program use, as a base, the same training program [for volunteers]. They use the same certification test and, for the most part, the same software,” says Fran Rosebush, deputy director of the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Get help from the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program.

3. AARP Tax Foundation

What it is: A nonprofit arm of AARP that operates the Tax-Aide network of tax preparation sites for the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs.

How it works: AARP’s Tax-Aide connects taxpayers with tax counselors who have advanced IRS training. It also operates an online FAQ page where you can submit tax questions to IRS-certified volunteers. You don’t need to be an AARP member to get help.

Get help from the AARP Tax Foundation.

4. IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service

What it is: An independent organization within the IRS that protects taxpayer rights.

How it works: You can turn to the Taxpayer Advocate Service if you’ve already tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels or you think an IRS process isn’t working the way it should. There’s at least one Taxpayer Advocate office in every state.

Get help from an IRS taxpayer advocate.

5. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs)

What it is: A federal grant program that gives money to legal-aid and legal-services organizations to help low-income taxpayers or taxpayers who speak English as a second language. Law schools and business schools also are common providers. Some charge nominal fees.

“We don’t prepare tax returns, generally speaking, but if somebody, for example, has their refund frozen and they need help figuring out why, they can call low-income tax clinics,” says Christine Speidel, an attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, which runs clinics in the state.

How it works: The program generally provides representation for people in IRS disputes, including audits, appeals, collections and litigation. It also can help respond to IRS notices and fix account problems. Typically, the income ceiling is 250% of the federal poverty rate, but some programs have a little wiggle room, Speidel says. Sole proprietors are usually welcome, she adds.

Get help from the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic program.

6. IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers

What it is: Local IRS offices across the country.

How it works: Services vary by office but can include basic tax-law assistance, payment arrangements, procedural inquiries, help with IRS letters and notices and other support. You’ll need to schedule an appointment and provide a valid photo ID and taxpayer identification number, such as your Social Security number.

Get help at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

7. Military OneSource

What it is: A Department of Defense program that provides financial and legal resources, among other things, to military members and their families. The tax program is called MilTax.

How it works: Trained MilTax consultants are available by phone seven days a week during tax season from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET at 1-800-342-9647. After April 18, they’ll be available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET. MilTax is part of the VITA program, which means you also can get face-to-face help on base or nearby.

Get help from Military OneSource.

8. The tax pro down the street

What it is: A certified public accountant, licensed attorney, enrolled agent or someone who has completed the IRS’ Annual Filing Season program. The IRS also requires anyone who prepares or helps prepare federal tax returns for compensation to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, so be sure to look for that.

How it works: To get free help, all you might need to do is ask. According to the National Society of Accountants, 89% of tax pros offer free client consultations worth more than $100.

Seek help from a credentialed tax professional.

9. Your tax software

What it is: Many versions of do-it-yourself tax software come with free help from a tax pro via phone, chat, email or even face-to-face via your cell phone’s camera.

How it works: Tax software providers frequently offer free help, though it’s more common among the higher-end paid versions. Audit support and audit representation are often provided, though you might have to pay extra.

Where to find: Companies such as TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer offer free help for all or some of their tax software packages.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "9 Ways to Get Free Help With Taxes from a Real Live Person" was first published on Small Business Trends



By Evan Brown

Juggling the incessant demands of being a full-time parent with the pressing needs of running a full-scale business would even have Superwoman balking in fear.

But for the many “mompreneurs” who manage to run successful businesses while also overseeing their children at home, it’s just another day in the office. For any mom (or, in fact, anyone) who is thinking of taking the entrepreneurial plunge, here are a few deadly mistakes to avoid.

1. Failing to Delegate: The ‘I Can Do It All’ Mentality

Here’s a classic dilemma that most mompreneurs fall prey to: Instead of relinquishing control, and letting someone else take the reins once in a while, they try to do it all on their own. Of course, the instinct is fathomable—moms are anything but inefficient, and mompreneurs are the crème de la crème. They are the masters of streamlining life and creating processes to squeeze out more from each day.

Most moms treat time as a rarity that they cannot afford to squander. Whether it’s being the accounts-payable department of the family or running carpool for after-school activities, the pressing demands of the family entail effective time management and advanced multitasking skills. However, when juggling both work and family simultaneously, this is a disastrous recipe for burnout that can actually thwart success.

So what do you do? You learn to delegate. Handing off a task-at-hand to a capable child can very well translate to the corporate environment as well. As a leader, find out what your employees excel at and try to give them the autonomy and experience in areas that can aid in their professional growth, and leave you time to catch a breath.

Joanna Strober, mom of three and CEO of Kurbo Health says, “Working mothers can be really hard on themselves. We may have a kaleidoscope of conflicting emotions, including helplessness, fear, anger, and guilt that we can’t do it all. But guess what? No one can—not even Superwoman.”

2. Skimping on a Viable Business Plan

When you have an “earth-shattering” idea, you may want to jump right into it and leave the boring details of crafting a business strategy and coming up with a feasibility plan for later. Having a solid business plan, however, plays a major role in determining the success of your startup. After all, a business plan is your guide for steering your business in the right direction.

Before writing your plan, answer the following questions: What is the purpose, values, and mission of your business? Who are the potential customers? What directions do you desire for the company? Who are your competitors and what are they doing differently? How are you planning to measure success?

To put it in a nutshell, a sound business plan determines every aspect of the startup, and acts as a reference every time your business is on the verge of a big change or is stuck in a rut. Make sure you have a business plan in place before you take a step forward.

3. Juggling Business and ‘Momming’ together

One of the deadliest mistakes that some mompreneurs make is not kick-starting their business in the traditional sense of a business. They start out with vague boundaries between being an expert in their industry and being a mom. While all mompreneurs have their fair share of “kid appearances” and “kid interruptions” during important sales and Skype calls, distinguishing the fine line between play and work is indispensable to success.

This involves setting up a dedicated work space and office hours so you can focus on what needs to be done without outside distractions. While asking you to “lock the door” might seem a little draconian, this philosophy will help you realize a better work/life balance to achieve all your business objectives.

Jessica Kettle, owner of Jessica Kettle Photography and mom to three kids, says, “Separate family and work time as much as possible. This increases productivity, and your family and clients are happier when you are able to focus and engage in what you are doing, rather than being spread too thin.

4. Clinging to the Wrong Idea Because Your Gut Says So

Many entrepreneurs are so enamored with their idea and the prospect of launching their own business that they fail to realize their idea is failing before it’s too late. Going on your gut alone to start a business can be the worst mistake you can make.

While you should never ignore a hunch, make sure that “hunch” is balanced with business strategies based on research, viewing key performance indicators, and engagement in number crunching. If this is your first business venture, do tests on what product tweaks or tactics are best for drawing in customers. Closely scrutinize the cost of acquisition of each customer and see if any small revamps can depreciate the cost for you.

5. Not Being Passionate

If you are starting a business simply to pay the bills, you are more likely to run a business “that pays more” instead of doing “what you love more.” However, loving what you do can help alleviate some of the stress of work, offer more personal fulfillment, and help sustain your energy.

According to Erin Schurtz, owner of Mommi and an actual mom of three, “Life’s too short to spend time doing anything for just a paycheck, especially when what you are doing takes you away from your children and family. If you love your work, then it will be easier to lead a balanced life.”

6. Not Finding the Right Support

Trying to juggle family and work can be overwhelming, so it’s important to get the help that you need. Set up a support system of mompreneurs who can be your go-to people for advice and extra help. They understand what you are going through and the kind of support you need.

Amber Lont, founder of ‘Organized (re)designed’ and mother of two, suggests that you find other mompreneurs and try to befriend them. This helps foster a camaraderie with other moms who are also trying to stay afloat professionally and personally in ways akin to your own.

7. Being Incapacitated by Fears of Failure

Starting a new business is a very big deal and there’s nothing wrong about feeling afraid. However, while having a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach before launching a startup is normal, these fears shouldn’t overcome you and hinder your progress.

Dwelling on “what ifs” and letting the negativity of others get to you can do more damage than good. While heeding caution is prudent, don’t allow the pessimistic remarks of others, including your inner voice, play with your mind and quench your fire. The key is to keep fighting for your business and to believe in yourself!

About the Author

Post by: Evan Brown

With over eight years in design and branding, Evan Brown has worked with a variety of companies, from small business startups to established brands. With an understanding for producing real business strategies and fluency in visual storytelling, Evan has built a reputation for being in the right moment at the right time.

Company: DesignMantic
Website: www.designmantic.com
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

The post Mompreneurs: Make Sure You’re Not Making These 7 Mistakes in Your Business appeared first on AllBusiness.com

The post Mompreneurs: Make Sure You’re Not Making These 7 Mistakes in Your Business appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Guest Post.



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