Small Business Tips

September 2016 Archive
A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses

Many businesses cater to the needs of our beloved family friends. Instead of kennels, many pet owners opt now for doggie day cares, which provide ample socialization and play time, as well as scheduled naps and meals. There are spas for pets, designer clothing and collars, and some hotels even offer room service menus. And, since the latest contaminated food scare, many businesses are providing all natural health food services as well.

But where the pet care industry comes up short is in memorializing our four-legged family members when they pass away. Some veterinarians provide cremation services, but, for the most part, there are few options for helping to remember our beloved fluff balls.

Continue Reading: “A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 30th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Startup, Ventures |

Marketing Your Website

Now that your website is up and running, you need to get potential clients to visit it. After all, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, these days a website is a crucial part of a successful business. But you can’t just expect people to find your site through online searches or happenstance. You have to advertise your website just as diligently as you advertise your actual business.

The following are some tips to get you started:

Communication
All forms of communication need to include your website address. Make sure it is on all letterhead, fax cover sheets, business cards, envelopes, fliers, brochures, newsletters, etc. Additionally, make sure that you/your staff mention your website to any potential clients that may call your office. Always guide them that direction because a majority of the information about your business should be contained on your site. Another great idea is to have your website mentioned on your hold message (like many customer service lines now do). This will help to decrease call volume for a busy business if clients can get the answers to their questions on your site.

Continue Reading: “Marketing Your Website”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, September 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Startup |

Avoid Getting Gypped by Fraudulent Web Designers

Everyone knows that, in order to have a truly successful business these days, you need to have a website. Typically, as your business is just getting started, most entrepreneurs will design their own website through a web hosting program online, many of which provide services at an inexpensive monthly cost, usually between free and $50, depending on the quality.

For example, for the photography business I started this year, I designed a website with Microsoft Office Live, through their basic free program. The site templates are practically all the same, but have different colors and navigation bar locations to choose from. I don’t have to know any of the website programing lingo or anything, I just select from a pull down menu. Pretty basic, but it accomplishes what I need at this time.

However, once my business takes off and begins to grow, I plan to have my website designed by a professional so that it can have all the bells and whistles that I really want my clientele to have access to. And this is typical. As small businesses continue to grow, the demand for web designers increases. But beware, there are many out there that are simply trying to pull the wool over your eyes and make a quick buck, with no regard for you or your business. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus reported 1,971 complaints against web designers or web design companies in 2006, up from just 603 in 2003.

In order to protect your business from being swindled by these wannabe web designers, it is a must that you do the following:

Continue Reading: “Avoid Getting Gypped by Fraudulent Web Designers”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

New Advertisement Placement Ideas

Everywhere we look, advertisements surround us. And because we’ve grown accustom to it all, many of us ignore the billboards, vehicles and bulletin boards that bombard our everyday lives. But lately there have been some new found advertising venues that will help to make your ad stand out and get noticed above the rest.

Shirts
Okay, so the idea of advertising on shirts is not new, but these two concepts are. Eye Level Marketing out of LA has come up with interchangeable shirt panels to be worn on employees uniforms. Some of their target markets include theme parks, stadiums, shopping centers and retail stores. For example, the hot dog vendor at the ball park could where panels for a specific brand of beer or soft drink, making those hot dog loving fans salivate for something to wash it down.

Additionally, a New Jersey company called Telme Clothing recognized the fact that most company t-shirts give very limited information about the business. As a means of provided that much needed information (such as a moto or complete contact information), Telme provides a paragraph or two of text on the inside, bottom back panel of the t-shirt. That way, you can hand out your t-shirts to potential clients and they will find all the information they need to contact your business.

Continue Reading: “New Advertisement Placement Ideas”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Marketing, Ventures |

A Little Relief from High Gas Prices on the Horizon

National Payment Card

Though it’s not because gas prices are necessarily going down. It’s because gas stations in Texas (with a nation-wide expansion in the works) are providing up to ten cents off per gallon with a special program. The program comes from a two year old, eight person company called National Payment Card (NPC). And all you have to do is pay for your gas by swiping your driver’s license through the credit card slot on the gas pump.

Well, first you have to enter your driver’s license number and bank account information on the NPC website. When your driver’s license is swiped, an automatic withdrawn is taken from your bank account through an e-check with the Automated Clearing House, which is typically used for direct deposits.

Many are skeptical of the idea of giving out such personal information. In fact, the Texas Department of Public Safety does not endorse NPC or any other program that uses your state issued driver’s license. But what those who have their doubts don’t seem to acknowledge is the fact that programs like PayPal (which I know, through experience, to be entirely secure) require more personal information from you than the NPC program.

Continue Reading: “A Little Relief from High Gas Prices on the Horizon”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, September 26th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money, Operations |

Optimizing Your Google Search

Google LogoGoogle has been around for nearly a decade now, but some people still don’t have the hang of it. They enter their search, but still aren’t finding exactly what they’re looking for. Here are a few quick tips for optimizing your Google search results:

Use the Right Terms
Sometimes it can be difficult to use the right search terms, but the better terms you use, the better results you’ll get. For example, if you’re searching for something to help guide your meeting along, use the terms “meeting agenda templates” or “meeting outline” rather than “format for a meeting.” Or, on a more personal scale, use “inexpensive preowned car” instead of “cheap used car.” Someone advertising a used car for sale is more likely to use the more, shall we say, eloquent terms, and so should you.

Continue Reading: “Optimizing Your Google Search”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, September 25th, 2016 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Technology |

A Bad Customer Service Experience

While out to dinner this weekend, my husband, some friends and I had a bad customer service experience. I thought I would share it with the blog community as a means to help learn what your staff should not do when a customer/client is dissatisfied.

We went to dinner at a small, locally owned Italian restaurant that we had heard many good things about, but none of us had yet been to. The service was off to a rocky start as the waitress took quite awhile to get to us. But we tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.

While waiting for our salads, our friends’ seven month old son needed his diaper changed. Dad took him to the men’s restroom to change him. Upon his rather lengthy return he said that it took him so long because there was no where in the men’s restroom to change a baby. No table and not enough counter space. Strike number one.

Continue Reading: “A Bad Customer Service Experience”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, September 24th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Customer Service |

Getting Past Generation Y Stereotypes

My husband has one of the greatest work ethics I’ve ever seen. Though he doesn’t any longer, he has worked in grocery since high school as a part-time gig. In the five plus years I’ve known him, he has never once called in to work. It doesn’t matter how sick he is, he always says they are counting on him.

His last job at a grocery store was just 10 hours a week, but when they needed some extra help or needed someone to fill a shift, my hubby was the first person they would call because he always would agree to be there. And you know what, most of the time, people are shocked to hear how devoted to his job he was, even though he really didn’t like it at all.

Why were they surprised? Because stereotypes about the “Y Generation” (those born between 1978 and 1990 – which includes me) have lead people to believe many things about those of us in our twenties and teens, especially when it comes to work, that just aren’t true for the majority. And employers need to start realizing the truth about us young ones, because over the next four years, nearly 10 million of us will be entering the work force.

Let’s examine some of those stereotypes and I’ll point out the misconception and the truth:

Continue Reading: “Getting Past Generation Y Stereotypes”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 23rd, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Human Resources |

New EEOC Guidelines Expand Employee Protection

Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionOn May 25th the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a new set of guidelines meant to protect those with caregiver responsibilities from employee discrimination. This includes, but is not limited to, employees with children, who care for the elderly, or who have an ill spouse, parent or in-law. These guidelines, of course, are meant to protect both men and women.

What the EEOC intends to protect is the employee’s ability to be available for those who are under his/her care. Some of the discriminatory issues that may arise, and the EEOC intends to prevent, are inflexibility in schedule (including mandatory overtime) and stereotypes that those who are deemed caregivers are less committed to their job and less deserving of promotions, raises and the like.

Continue Reading: “New EEOC Guidelines Expand Employee Protection”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Business Law |

Global Markets and Business Etiquette

A study of networking cultures in China, Russia, Europe and the U.S. has resulted in some helpful information for U.S. entrepreneurs doing business overseas. The study was conducted by Bat Batjargal, who, according to BusinessWeek.com, is a research associate at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, and an assistant professor at Beijing University, who has been studying cross-cultural networks for about a decade.

First and foremost, when doing business with a foreign country, don’t over do it in trying to fit in with their culture. Russians know that you are not Russian and, therefore, do not expect you to act Russian. They expect you to act like yourself.

Below are some additional information Batjargal learned from his study that you need to know when dealing with the global market:

Continue Reading: “Global Markets and Business Etiquette”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking |

Helping Ensure Your Employees Get Along

In any business, especially small ones, everyone works closely together. Sometimes employees have to deal with the cubicle situation, with desks nearly on top of one another, because of limited space issues. This can cause some messy situations if you, as the boss, don’t lay down some ground rules right from the beginning.

Here are some things you may want to stick in your employee policy manual, in order to help avoid those popular cubicle conflicts:

1. Allow employees to label their supplies.
One of the most popular cubicle complaints among employees is that things keep disappearing from their desk. We all know that popular phrase from Office Space: “Has anyone seen my stapler?” Well, it happens all the time. For me, my pens are always disappearing, mostly because I sit at the front desk. Allow your employees to label their supplies, such as staplers, pens, clipboards, etc., with their name or desk number, in order to help to sway the temptation of others to snatch it.

Continue Reading: “Helping Ensure Your Employees Get Along”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Human Resources, Operations |

Tips for Sorting Through Overwhelming Files

There comes a time in the life of our filing cabinet when there is no room to spare for any future files, and the ones contained within are so old we don’t remember where they came from. It’s time to sort your files and weed out the ones you no longer need.

Here are some tips for sorting through your overwhelming stack of files:

1. Establish a Closing System
If you don’t start a means of closing your files when your task for that client is complete, then you will never have enough space for them all. Keep in mind that any files that contain legal documentation, whether you’re actually an attorney or just have a contract with the client, must not be destroyed (by law) until ten years after they have been closed. If you have a lot of files like that, the best thing to do is rent a storage unit to keep your closed files in, so that they don’t take space away from your actual work environment.

Continue Reading: “Tips for Sorting Through Overwhelming Files”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, September 19th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

The Balance of a Leader

From the time I was a little girl, my mother had this look. If I was not behaving in the manner she approved of, all it took from her was “the look” (and occasionally my name spoken in a not so flattering tone) and I’d straighten right up. That look has carried on to me. My husband says I try and use on him sometimes (though he doesn’t like to admit that I’m usually successful) and even our dog, a 95 pound lab/dane mix, will hang his head in shame when I give him “the look.” It must be an acquired skill.

Equally as important as “the look” in getting my point across, is the affection. Though we don’t have any children of our own just yet, I have a great deal of experience with them from working in daycares and children’s ministries at church. And one of the most important things I’ve learned is there must be affection and love in your discipline. With my nephews, for example, when they stay over at our house and get into trouble, we discuss what they did wrong, how to improve in the future, and always end with a hug and “I love you.”

Being a good, strong, dependable leader is all about balance. Being a leader is not a one-sided position. You cannot be rough on your employees and never show them any tenderness. And you can’t be easy on everyone and never show them any discipline. You have to have a balance of both.

And there are many areas in which a balance is needed as a leader, such as the following:

Continue Reading: “The Balance of a Leader”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, September 18th, 2016 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Human Resources, Ownership |

Local Currency Helps Small Business

It’s not news that big-box businesses are popping up everywhere and harming the local small business economy wherever they land. In fact, a study in Maine by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) showed that only about 14 cents on the dollar of funds that went into a big-box business stayed in the state. This compared to a whopping 54 cents on the dollar for locally-owned businesses.

In an effort to discover ways to bring more customers to the small business community, the community of Barrington, Massachusetts has created a local currency called BerkShares. One BerkShare note is worth 90 cents in U.S. currency. Four banks int he Barrington area participating, along with some 280 locally-owned businesses who have registered with the program, and 250 more in the area that take the currency but aren’t officially registered. As part of their participation, businesses offer customers who use BerkShares a 10% discount on their purchases.

Continue Reading: “Local Currency Helps Small Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, September 17th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Money |

Funding Options for Small Business

When I started my photography business this year, I vowed that I would not go into debt to make it happen. Things are still slow as I build my portfolio and get the word out, which means there are times when I have no money coming in at all. And that’s fine, it just means that I’m not making any purchases to further things along either.

I do invest my own money in the business. In fact, that’s exactly how I got the business started in the first place, by saving up for it. And that’s how I take it to the next level with advertising, etc. I save up for a particular piece of equipment or ad.

Investing your own money in your business is the most cost effective way to get things moving, especially in the beginning. Additionally, as your business grows and has more revenue coming in, you can invest your personal income as a loan to the business, with an interest rate and all, where the business pays you back for your investment.

Continue Reading: “Funding Options for Small Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 16th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money, Startup |

Is Tort Reform Necessary to Protect Small Business?

According to a survey by the Institute for Legal Reform, release in May, more than half of small business owners polled are not all that concerned about being sued. But, as I pointed out in a post earlier this month (see The Lawsuit Risks of Having a Website), we live in a world of lawsuit happy people, who want anyone to blame but themselves.

That seems to be the circumstances, in my opinion, in the case of the D.C. judge who sued his neighborhood dry cleaner for $54 million over a misplaced pair of pants. Apparently Judge Roy Pearson dropped of a pair of pants at Custom Cleaners, owned by Soo and Jin Chung, to be altered. According to his side of the story, when he returned to pick up the pants, the Chung’s said they couldn’t locate them. A week later they returned pants to him, but Pearson claims they were not the one’s he brought in.

Continue Reading: “Is Tort Reform Necessary to Protect Small Business?”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, September 15th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Business Law |

Showing Compassion

Recently I posted about the influence a leader has on those under his authority and respect. What someone in a position of leadership does guides others down a similar path. This can manifest in many areas, and one area that needs it most is compassion for others.

Consider the fact that, statistically, two of every three Americans are overweight. We are a gluttonous nation. And yet, a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world (though typically not here) every four seconds. Unfortunately, many people won’t act upon such sobering statistics and try to make a difference because they don’t believe that they truly can. What’s one person to such a monstrous global epidemic?

Continue Reading: “Showing Compassion”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Motivation |

Businesses Embrace the Harry Potter Craze

Harry Potter CrazeAre you a Harry Potter fan? I am. I love the movies, but haven’t read the books yet (I know, any die-hard fans would be appalled). My husband has suddenly gone on a “read all the books NOW” craze and has flown through the first three in a week. But I can’t say that I spend a lot of time at work discussing Harry Potter. But apparently, it has become something more than a little water cooler chatter.

According to Entrepreneur.com’s article Potter Casts Petrificus Totalus Spell on Workplace (nice title, by the way), the Harry Potter craze that has swept the nation for the past few years has escalated with the release of the fifth movie, The Order of the Phoenix on July 11th and the release of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on July 21st. And with that escalation has come a bit of, shall we say, distraction during business hours.

Continue Reading: “Businesses Embrace the Harry Potter Craze”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Human Resources, Operations |