Small Business Tips

April 2016 Archive
Inspire Your Employees

Some of the most wealthy people I know got there by having superior people management skills. Every employee that works for you is a potential brainstormer, the one person who may think of the great idea that makes millions.

How can you inspire your employees to innovate?

1) Business owners must set personal egos aside

An employee may keep a great idea to himself if she/he doesn’t like you!

2) Create open brainstorming sessions for employees

Allowing them to give their own input makes them feel as if they truly are a part of the system.

3) Recognize the unique gifts your employees possess

Once you find someone with a unique gift or talent, nurture that talent and capitalize when the time is right.

4) Set parameters

Specify what you’re looking for, and guide your employees. You’ll be amazed at the new concepts they’ll throw at you.

“The direct benefit [of employee innovation] is competitive advantage, but the secondary benefits are greater employee empowerment and satisfaction.”

Source:
Sparking Bright Ideas


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Acknowledging Those Who Make a Difference
What Employees Want from You
A New Way for Employees to Get Paid
Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service
Protecting Your Clientele

By Chris Brunner
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Human Resources |

Business Startup Blunders

When starting a new business venture it’s easy to skip over the little things that may come back to haunt you in a big way. The real defininition of entrepreneur should be “a business-minded person who’s willing to constantly solve unforeseen problems.”

Tamara Monosoff of Entrepreneur Magazine offers the following booby traps you may encounter when starting a new business venture:

Trap #1: Universal Product Codes
Trap #2: Product Liability Insurance
Trap #3: Electronic Data Interchange
Trap #4: Chargebacks
Trap #5: Slotting Fees
Trap #6: Timing

Source:
Business Booby Traps


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Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation
Insurance for Small Businesses
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 2)
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Labor Laws
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

By Chris Brunner
Friday, April 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting a Startup

According to a survey by Yahoo! Small Business and Harris Interactive, 66 percent of American adults say they’ve considered starting a business. But many never take the leap.

The key word in “small business” is small… your business can take up as much or as little time as you want it to. The art of the start is really about setting yourself up with a system that provides clear direction and keeps you moving forward no matter what challenges you face.

Here are some tips from Cornelia M. Flannery of Entreprenuer Magazine to help steer you in the right direction:

1. Choose a Business That Fits You.
2. State Your End Goal.
3. Identify the Milestones That Make Up Your End Goal.
4. Choose One Milestone From Your List.
5. Identify the Tasks Required to Achieve Your Milestone.

Source:
Start a Business in 10 Minutes a Day


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Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
Benefits of Market Research
Business Structures Help Fight War on Terror
IRS Redesigns Form 941
Stop Sitting on the Sidelines

By Chris Brunner
Thursday, April 28th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Reducing Taxable Income with Retirement Funds

Taxes stink. Ah, but as citizens of this wonderful country we must pay our dues for services. Most business owners know that the more you make the more you are taxed.

The best way to reduce your taxable income and greatly benefit yourself at the same time is through retirement funds, such as a 401(k) plan. I recently started a Solo 401(k) for myself and can place up to $44,000 a year into it, reducing my taxable income by this amount each year.

Your 401(k) can mean the difference between paying the government or creating a future for you and your family.

How should a 401k be balanced?

Money magazine suggests these allocations:

1) Aggressive–for those with 35 or more years until retirement

50%–large cap stocks
15%–mid cap stocks
15%–bonds
10%–small cap stocks
10%–international stocks

2) Moderate–for those with 20 years until retirement

35%–large cap stocks
35%–bonds
10%–mid cap stocks
10%–small cap stocks
10%–international stocks

3) Conservative–for those within 10 years of retirement

40%–bonds
30%–large cap stocks
10%–mid cap stocks
10%–international stocks
10%–cash

Read more about 401(k) plans:

• Forbes.com – A Way To Max Your Tax Savings
• U.S. Dept. of Labor – 401(k) Plans For Small Businesses
• About.com – Maximizing Your 401k Plan
• SmartMoney.com – The Solo 401(k)


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Retirement for the Sole-Proprietor
National Minimum Wage on the Verge of Increasing
Will You Retire?
Baby Boomers Expected to Lead Business Boom
Estimating Income Tax

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Taxes |

IBM’s 500Ghz Cryogenic Chip

IBM and Georgia Tech claimed they have demonstrated the first silicon-based chip that can operate above 500 GHz by cryogenically “freezing” the circuit. By comparison, 500 GHz is more than 250 times faster than today’s cell phones, which typically operate at approximately 2 GHz.

By freezing the circuit to minus 451 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 Kelvins), scientists can explore the ultimate speed limits of silicon germanium (SiGe) devices, which are said to operate faster at cold temperatures. This type of chip operated at 350Ghz at room temperature, which is still 175 times faster than chips used today.

“This groundbreaking collaborative research by Georgia Tech and IBM redefines the performance limits of silicon-based semiconductors,” Bernie Meyerson, vice president and chief technologist at IBM Systems and Technology Group.

This could obviously have a large impact on large and small business around the world.

I plan to buy some IBM stock soon as they are a major player in the nanotechnology sector, arguably one of the largest technological think-tanks in the world. Their advances will only continue over the next decade.


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
IBM’s SecureBlue Encryption
What to Expect from Technology in 2007
Revisions to the U.S. Patent Law Under Consideration
Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation
What’s Your Business Model?

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |

Managing Business Cash Flow

Cash flow can be the lifeblood of any company large or small. Unfortunately many small business owners neglect to manage their cash flow properly.

Here are some tips from PowerHomeBiz.com on how to manage home business cash flow:

• Collect Payments Quickly
• Deposit Checks Fast
• Have a Super Tight Accounts Receivable Policy
• Disburse Your Money Slowly
• No Extra Money in Your Bank Account
• Get an Account Analysis Statement
• Inventory is Not Cash
• Don’t Forget Continuity Sales
• Licensing Agreements

Recommended Reading:

• Entreprenuer.com – How to Better Manage Your Cash Flow
• Inc.com – Cash Management Basics
• C.P.A. – Understanding, Planning & Managing Cash Flow


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Small Business Scams
Fair Tax Legislation
Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8
Avoiding Cash Flow Mistakes
Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8

By Chris Brunner
Monday, April 25th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Personal Savings in Decline

Image Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

This is a little off the topic of small business but I think it affects each and every one of us.

An interesting discussion is taking place over at Vox Baby about personal savings.

According to the GDP Report, consumer confidence in the economy is up, yet personal savings is down.

In fact, the U.S. Personal Savings Rate has not been positive for the U.S. since March of 2005.

Some argue that this has to do with baby boomers funding higher education for their children.

Others suggest looking at income quintiles. “The topmost quintile is very, very confident that their income will stay high come what may. So why save?”

The personal savings rate does not include capital gains on investments as a method of saving.

William Gale, a tax specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., says the situation isn’t as bad as it seems and it’s a mistake to look at the personal savings rate and think it correlates with wealth accumulation.

“For wealth accumulation you need capital gains. … it is [important] to look at the right measurement. The personal savings rate is good as a national income accounting measure.”


“I wonder how it can be that with the Baby Boomer generation in the high-income and presumably high-saving part of its economic life cycle, we can possibly have negative saving rates for the population as a whole, if we are making decisions with any attention to the amount of consumption … in the future.”

Vox BabyThe End of Personal Saving?


Despite a favorable outlook, there are at least three widely acknowledged areas of near-term concern that could pose risks to the economy going forward: a spike in energy prices, a decline in home prices, and a retrenchment in consumer spending arising from record consumer indebtedness.

The public’s increase in debt in 2005 was far greater than its increase in after-tax income.

FDIC.govScenarios for the Next U.S. Recession


… research suggests that a group that includes approximately 10 percent of U.S. households may be at heightened risk of credit problems …

Not only do many borrowers in this group have pre-existing credit problems, they may also be more vulnerable than other groups to rising interest rates because of their reliance on interest-only and payment-option mortgages.

Gary North – The Next Recession


More Discussion and Information:

The Glittering Eye – Why is the savings rate so low?
Investment U – U.S. Personal Savings Rate
Bankrate.com – Savings in America: Retirement picture not as bad as it looks


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Fair Tax Legislation
Why Trump & Kiyosaki Want Us to Be Rich
Funding Options for Small Business
Baby Boomers Expected to Lead Business Boom
How the Bee Colony Collapse May Affect Your Business

By Chris Brunner
Sunday, April 24th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Business Email Etiquette

5 quick and easy email tips for entrepreneurs:

Looks matter
Formatting your emails in a professional manner will score brownie points with your clients.

Run a business, not an acquaintanceship
Respond to email requests promptly. I typically respond to emails within 2-3 hours of receipt.

Emotions have no place in business
Avoid using emotionally based words. Business is business and feelings aren’t of the essence.

Emoticons were created for a reason
Write clearly and to the point. The reader should immediately pick up on your tone.

Explanations go a long way
Your clients will be more attentive to buy if you fully explain the answers to their questions.

Recommended Reading:
Business Email Etiquette: Maintaining a Professional Image
Business Email Etquette Basics
Five Email Etiquette Tips for Better Communication


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How to Write an Effective Advertisement
Telephone Etiquette Tips – Handling Client Calls
Preparing for an IRS Audit
Starting a New Business
Choosing a Business Name

By Chris Brunner
Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking |

Investing in Energy

Energy — in a variety of forms — has a continuous and direct effect on our daily lives from top to bottom.

At present, fossil fuels account for 86 percent of world energy consuption. By 2020, global demand for energy is expected to outpace current world production by nearly 40 percent.¹

Here’s my energy portfolio:

IGNAX – Ivy Global Natural Resources Class A
IGNCX – Ivy Global Natural Resources Class C

…and a new fund that I will be investing in today:

WEGAX – Waddell Reed Energy Fund Class A

…and I’m considering buying into this new fund:

GAAEX – Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund

I predict that industrialized nations will witness an accelerated use of fossil fuels for another 10-20 years. The price of oil and gas will soar and supply will diminish rapidly.

Within 5 years, I see focus moving to renewable energy and alternative energy research, development and infastructure on a large scale basis. This will set up another energy investment opportunity for lucrative returns many years down the road.

Will I stand correct in 2016? Who knows… but my gut feeling is telling me to jump on board as quickly as possible.

¹ EIA; BP Statistical Review of World Energy


5/02/06 UPDATE: The conflict with Iran is getting even nastier. The Iranian government could sabotage oil trade routes at any moment, driving oil supply down and prices through the roof even sooner than expected.

If this happens I see oil spiking to at least $85 a barrel this summer and possibly $100 by winter.

“At some stage, I think Iran will use its oil as a weapon to negotiate with the U.N. and the U.S., which would push up the market — although they are unlikely to stop exports altogether because they need the money.”

–Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist with Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo.


Consult with an investment professional before taking part in any investment scheme.

Recommended Resources:

• Forbes.com – Forbes Energy News
• R.E.A. – Global Renewable Energy Investments Top $30 Billion
• Market Participant – A Balanced Energy Portfolio


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A Newer Way of Avoiding High Energy Bills
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product
Internet Search Advertising: Google vs. Yahoo
Alternative Minimum Tax
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Money and Taxes

By Chris Brunner
Friday, April 22nd, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money |

Yoga at Your Desk

Owning a small business is typically a stressful endeavor, especially if you are the only one running the show. The daily grind can cause muscles to tense and eventually bones to move out of position.

To relax your mind, body, and spirit … try Yoga. I started a routine at home last week that has really helped to relax my back and shoulder pain as well as helping me sleep better at night.

Most Yoga DVDs are the price of a typical Hollywood movie. My wife purchased “Yoga Zone Intermediate”. A few parts of it are cheesy, but the stretches demonstrated really work.

You can even do Yoga stretches at your desk as a break from work.

Recommended Reading:

Yoga @ Your Desk
Nine to Five Yoga


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Building Your Office
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Helping Ensure Your Employees Get Along
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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, April 21st, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

IBM’s SecureBlue Encryption

IBM Corp. has announced “SecureBlue”, a security architecture that “can be built into a microprocessor chip to provide defense features previously unseen”.

IBM claims “the chip encryption process allows for increased security for both the microprocessor on which it is added, and the entire devices the chips are used in.”

Unfortunately IBM’s encryption engine is not plug-and-play. SecureBlue will need to be woven into a processor’s circuitry during the manufacturing process.

This means that the first offering of SecureBlue will likely will end up only in devices made by companies that hire IBM’s custom engineering unit. That group’s projects include chips for medical and defense systems and video game consoles.

Official IBM Press Release

Related Readings:

IBM Bakes Security Into Processors
SecureBlue, New Encryption Chip from IBM
IBM Partners with Missouri State University to boost IT training


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IBM’s 500Ghz Cryogenic Chip
The Benefits of Adding Video Surveillance
What to Expect from Technology in 2007
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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |

Windows XP on Apple/Intel Computers

Apple Computer Inc., the maker of the Macintosh computer and iPod music devices, on Wednesday rolled out a software patch under its plan to move its computers over to Intel Corp. microprocessors.

Apple said that the new software, called “Boot Camp”, enables Intel-based Macs to install and run Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system software. Boot Camp is available as a download beginning today.

Apple Introduces Boot Camp

Recommended Reading:

• AppleXnet.com – Apple OS Boot Camp Details
• Technovia – Why Boot Camp Won’t Make Much Difference
• InfoWorld Daily – A first look at how Apple’s Boot Camp works


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What to Expect from Technology in 2007
Which Internet Browser Should You Choose?
3 Ways to Pay Less for Technology
How to Secure Your Business Against Computer Viruses
Effective Logo Design for Small Businesses

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology |

Product Stickers and Respect

Jason Fried over at Signal vs. Noise made an excellent point yesterday about respecting products you make and the customers who buy them.

Does this company respect me? Try the sticker test.

For instance, those pesky information stickers that come on just about everything, including INSIDE of a tea-kettle I bought recently.

• Are they easy to remove?
• Do they leave a sticky residue when removed?

Here is this great product I purchased and the manufacturer insists on sticking something on that completely mars the surface.

When these stickers are included, I can discern that the manufacturer probably has not tried to remove one of these stickers from their product themselves. They stick it and forget it.

This tells me that they don’t care about the product, or me.


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Building Your Office
Customer Reviews Make Business Better
Taking Business Ques from Nintendo
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product
Knowing Your Customers

By Chris Brunner
Monday, April 18th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Operations |

Holographic Storage Drives

A new and exciting development in data storage has been announced by Inphase Technologies out of Longmont, Colorado.

Inphase has demonstrated the highest data density of any commercial technology by recording 515 gigbits of data per square inch. By comparison, magnetic disks, such as those used in the hard drives, can manage a storage density of about 375 gigabits per square inch.

Holographic drives use a three-dimensional image generated by lasers to store information.

InPhase will deliver the industry’s first holographic drive and media later this year. The first generation drive has a capacity of 300 gigabytes on a single disk with a 20 megabyte per second transfer rate. The first product will be followed by a family ranging from 800Gb to 1.6 terabyte (Tb) capacity.

Quick Facts:
• 50 years lifetime compared to today’s 7 years.
• 70% more storage space.
• 90% cheaper

Half-Terabit per-square-inch Data Density Achieved

Recommended Reading:
• Engadget.com – New Record set for Fastest Data Transmission
• BBC.co.uk – Holographic Advance Aids Storage
Inphase Technologies


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, April 17th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |

Dealing With Angry Customers

If you are a seasoned small business owner, you’ve probably encountered the pissed-off customer who either treatens to shut your business down, or who throws a temper tantrum until they get their way.

For new business owners or people thinking of going into business, you should be prepared to deal with this no matter how much confidence you have in your products or services.

5 Simple Tips For Dealing With Nasty Customers

1. Don’t take it personal.
2. Don’t overdo the “customer is always right” concept.
3. Realize it isn’t always your problem.
4. Don’t fall for fear invoking bluffs.
5. Decide whether or not a customer relationship is worth salvaging.

Following these steps will help you keep your sanity when bearish customers come calling.

Recommended Reading:

• Leadership-Tools.com – Dealing With Angry Customers
• Work911.com – The #1 Mistake Made Dealing With Angry Customers
• Gaebler.com – Customer Support: Handling Angry Customers


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What Successful People Do – Part 2
Should You Fire Your Ad Agency?
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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, April 16th, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Customer Service |

Entrepreneurial Style

BusinessSeek.biz has published an article titled “Compensating for Your Entrepreneurial Style“.

The author, Glenn Beach, offers a list of important characteristics every entrepreneur must possess to succeed.

1) Ability to see the big picture and plan accordingly;
2) Self-discipline;
3) Ability to use time wisely;
4) At minimum, a moderate drive to achieve;
5) Adaptability;
6) Autonomy;
7) Decisiveness;
8) A feeling of control over your own destiny;
9) Having (energy) drive and enterprise;
10) Motivation to grow;
11) Sense of intuition;
12) Ability to spot opportunities;
13) Perseverance;
14) Problem-solving abilities;
15) Risk-tolerance;
16) Self-confidence;
17) Social skills.

Over the course of running a small business, I’ve had to use or develop nearly every one of these characteristics. Some professions require more development than others.

A website designer’s optimal characteristics for success would be (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13).

On the other hand, let’s say you operate a restaurant. Your optimal characteristics for success would be (2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17).

What is YOUR entrepreneurial style?

Recommended Reading:
Wikipedia.org – Entrepreneur
Planning a Vivid Future: Brian Scudamore’s Key Move
Is Entrepreneurship Really For You?


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Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies
Barriers to Marketing Success
Holographic Storage Drives
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Business Trends in 2007

By Chris Brunner
Friday, April 15th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |