Small Business Tips

December 2016 Archive
Testing New Marketing Ideas

1) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
2) Measure your results in order to determine what works best.
3) Marketing isn’t just about the numbers.
4) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
5) It’s always OK to try something new; just make sure not to discontinue the marketing you’ve been doing that gets results.
6) Wait 3 days to decide.

Including new ideas in your marketing plan is a healthy practice, just make sure you fully understand the implications and the chance for success in each plan. In other words, have a plan for the plan.


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, December 31st, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

Benefits of Market Research

Researching your market prior to entering is a sound decision for any business owner. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked and ignored. The results can be loss of revenue and a slow start.

What are the benefits of market research?

1) Will help you better communicate.
Learn about your potential clients — who they are and what they want the most. Nothing improves communication skills better than a little person to person contact.

2) Will help identify opportunities.
Check the competition. Are they missing something you can capitalize on? What can you do better than they can? Are you clients in need of something nobody else is offering?

3) Will minimize risk.
Just like any situation, if you come prepared you will be less likely to loose and more likely to win.

4) Will create benchmarks to help you measure progress.
How well are you doing? By setting the standard high from the start, you will be in a better position for sustained growth.


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, December 30th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

How Likeable Are You?

Face it — in today’s vicious corporate jungle, making a good first impression is crucial. There are no second chances. Instant assumptions are made and you’ve sealed the deal one way or another.

The reception of business cards are just one of the many areas where many people take the inconsiderate route:

Act as though you have received a gift. Upon accepting a card, you have the opportunity to repeat the name and be corrected on pronunciation. You should also ask any questions that the card itself may bring to mind and comment on the design if practical.

The idea is to show interest in any contact’s card, which will make them more likely to be interested in yours. Then respectively tuck it away in a safe place like a $100 bill. Your actions won’t be forgotten.

Toronto Sun

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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, December 29th, 2016 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Networking |

Find a Financial Planner

“There is a belief in this country that ‘I don’t need to deal with money management because I hardly have any money’. Many young people engage in “short-term thinking,” like expecting to save money only after they graduate from college or professional school.”

Unfortunately the topic of saving and investing money is not taught in our schools unless you specialize in the subject. It doesn’t matter how much money you make. Take the time to find a good financial planner Springfield Mo that will guide you in the right direction.

I recently took the step and I can personally tell you it was an extremely good feeling.

The New York Times

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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Money |

How to Survive an Earnout

Earnout – An arrangement in which sellers of a business receive additional future payment, usually based on future earnings.

“As many as half of all small business acquisitions involve earnouts, which generally last from two to four years and range from 15% to 30% of the purchase price (though 50% is not unheard of). Earnouts are particularly common in acquisitions of high-growth companies and those with unproven products. Takeovers of service businesses, in which the entrepreneur’s relationships with clients are crucial, are also likely candidates for earnouts.”

Earnouts can be a very risky transaction. It takes all of the power (and accomplishments) you hold in your company and hands it over to the corporation who purchases the rights. Don’t get starry-eyed by the initial payoff. Negotiate for all you and your company are worth.

Here’s how to protect yourself:

1) Get a lawyer.
2) Get the largest up-front payment you can.
3) Negotiate the targets for the earnout.
4) Fight for sliding-scale rather than all-or-nothing payments.


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, December 27th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Ownership |

Avoid Legal Trouble

Being a new small business owner, I was recently forced to re-evaluate my company’s legal position. As a sole-proprietor, I learned that ALL of my personal assets were at risk of being taken if there were ever a legal dispute against my company.

Immediately, I visited a lawyer and formed a Limited Liability Company. Taxes are figured exactly the same, but now the assets I’ve worked so hard for are better protected.

“Operating a business as the sole proprietorship puts the owner in a vulnerable position. A better choice would be to start your company as a limited liability corporation. This means your company is a separate entity that must deal with its own legal issues and you are not personally held liable.”


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, December 26th, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations |

Small Business Scams

Finding the contact information for a small business owner is amazingly easy, no matter if your business is online or not. Here are two of the latest and most dangerous scams that are affecting business owners across the country:

The “We Just Need Your Checking Account Number To Confirm Your Creditworthiness” Scam

This scam allows the culprit to record your checking account number in order to write demand drafts payable from your account. Not only do they not require a signature, but they require no action by the checking account holder.

The “Please Cash Our Check For $4.23″ Scam

This scam is much more brilliant and extremely sneaky. The scammer sends a legitimate check made out to your company. If you cash or deposit that check, your account information is printed on it. The check is returned to the scammer with your account info present allowing him to begin writing demand drafts against your account.

What to do:

Keep an eye on your account. I check mine daily. If any withdraws (large or small) show up that you aren’t familiar with, contact your bank immediately. If your bank doesn’t offer online account access, find one that does.


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, December 25th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Money |

Taking Time Off

Go ahead… relax on the beach without a care in the world. Not so fast! What’s happening back home? Is your business being run correctly? Are you still making money even though you aren’t there?

These are questions an entrepreneur must face when deciding to take that much needed vacation.

Veterans of vacation angst say they’ve found ways to make it easier to take time off. They’ve set up their companies so the business can run without the boss there. They’ve armed themselves with plenty of technology to stay in touch — although that can lead to a tug-of-war between enjoying a trip and taking care of business.

Taking a vacation can actually benefit your company by helping you evaluate the method by which you run the business. If something goes terribly wrong while you are gone, you know have a weak link in the system.

A well-run company will easily survive its owner’s absence.


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, December 24th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Starting a New Business

Starting a new business isn’t just about marketing and advertising your new product or service. Creating a solid foundation for the business to function on should be priority #1.

Here are some tips from Mary Ellen Martelli, a professional business consultant:

1. Have a Written Business Plan.
2. Begin Your Business Branding Immediately.
3. Get a Business Website.
4. Advertise with Consistency.
5. Get Your Business Publicized
6. Network – Network – Network
7. Assess and Redirect Along the Way

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By Chris Brunner
Friday, December 23rd, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Startup |

More Tips for Expo Success

Exposition organizers often start planning their shows months in advance, and smart exhibitors begin their planning shortly thereafter. By not waiting to the last minute to reserve your spot, you can put yourself in a prime location.

Once you’ve reserved the best possible location at an expo, these 9 easy steps can help make your next trade show experience a success:

1. Read your pre-show materials
2. Meet your deadlines
3. Set up early
4. Plan your booth
5. Utilize the right people to work your booth
6. Make people remember you
7. Capture qualified prospects
8. Reconnect with existing clients
9. Follow up

New Hampshire Business Review

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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, December 22nd, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing |

Tips for Trade Show Success

Trade shows can be a great way to showcase your products or services to a large number of people at one location. These gatherings also allow for excellent networking opportunities.

Forward planning is the key to trade show success.

1. Market prior to the show
2. Create an eye-catching booth
3. Provide promotional materials
4. Train your staff to market for you.
5. Create an appealing giveaway
6. Follow up on leads


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By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing |

Protect Your Wireless Networks

“Wireless networks transmit data over radio waves, which can potentially be intercepted. As a result, an unprotected wireless network is like an unlocked door–and too many small businesses are leaving their doors wide open.

By year’s end, about 75 percent of businesses with 1,000 employees or less will have wireless networks, according to research firm Gartner. Only half of all wireless networks are protected.”

You don’t have to be a “techie” to be concerned about security. The hacking of wireless networks is real. As wireless technology becomes more popular, the potential for abuse and crime will rise with it.

Here are steps you can take to secure your wireless network:

  • Change your device’s default password.
  • Change the default SSID.
  • Don’t broadcast the SSID.
  • Use encryption.
  • Give off-site users a virtual private network (VPN) connection.
  • Keep your wireless hardware’s firmware updated.
  • Enable MAC address filtering.
  • Set a wireless policy.
  • Get help if you need it.
  • Stay up to date.

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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Technology |

You Cant Replace Face Time

When it comes to business, a little face-to-face contact goes a long way. For those of you running a home based business, it’s especially easy to rely on technology to make contact with people.

“Not only are you missing out on potential revenue by staying at home, you’re also robbing yourself of continuing education, moral support, industry intelligence, personal fulfillment, and the serendipitous business opportunities that only arise when you take a few moments to meet someone new.”

Before you set out to meet with potential clients, equip yourself with the tools and knowledge you need to succeed. Take a pocketful of business cards with you and follow up strategically with the prospects you meet.

“When you invite someone to a structured meeting or lunch, spend time beforehand outlining what it is you want to accomplish, how you will present your business succinctly, and what the benefits are of doing business with you.”


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, December 19th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Networking |

Telephone Etiquette Tips – Handling Client Calls

I carry many hats working for a law firm. I am a legal assistant, billing clerk and also the receptionist. A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar called “How to Be an Outstanding Receptionist.” Not that I wasn’t any good at my job, but in recognition of the fact that no one is perfect and we all need improvement.

Most of the seminar was a refresher course, if you will, but there were some interesting topics and point that I thought useful for any business owner, not just the girl up front. One topic in particular was dealing with clientele over the phone.

Regardless of your position in a business, there are some things everyone should know:

Screening Calls
One key element for screening incoming calls is to avoid asking questions that can have a simple yes or no answer. For example, instead of asking, “May I tell him your name please?” which can result in “no” as response from the hostile client who feels her calls aren’t getting returned, simply say “What is your name?” or “Your name please.” You still may have hostile clients, but their options are much more limited. As long as you remain assertive and in control, you shouldn’t have many problems.

Fast Talkers
They’re out there… those people who can’t seem to talk slowly enough for you to understand them, let alone take down and name and number. One way to try and get them to slow down is to subtly slow your own speech. Many people will subconsciously catch on. Another option is to simply state that what they have to say is important to you and you want to be sure and catch everything so you would appreciate if they could talk a bit more slowly.

Every grandma wants to talk about her beautiful grandchildren, it’s just that some of them want to tell you when three other phone lines are ringing. Try talking fast so that they get the impression that you’re in a hurry. Don’t asked open ended questions such as “What happened next?” Instead ask “What can I help you with today?” or “What is the issue at hand?

An interesting statistic that the seminar leader threw at us is that 93% of communication is tone and body language and only 7% is that actual words. So always remain positive and talk with a smile (clients can tell) and the majority of your calls will have a positive outcome.

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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, December 18th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

Choosing a Business Name

Choosing a business name is arguably the most important part of starting a business. Botch this one and it will haunt you for a long time.

A winning business name is more than just a catchy phrase, it should draw business in itself.

Susan Ward of Canada offers these six tips for creating a winning business name:

1) Memorable — but easy to spell.
2) A strong visual element.
3) Positive connotation.
4) Must include information about what your business does.
5) Must be fairly short.
6) Choose your company/logo colors carefully.

[Read more...]

On the About Us page, I tell the story of this company name that originally started as BCT then GFX. Both of these were already taken so I went with GreatFX.

The “FX” sounds like “Effects” giving you “Great Effects”… what you can get by marketing with professional business cards.

Not everyone immediately understands this but many people have. It may be one of the more obscure names I’ve come up with, but it works for me :-)

Recommended Reading:

How To Create a Great Business Name
8 Mistakes To Avoid When Naming Your Business
How to Name Your Business

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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, December 17th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Seeking a Dream

We’ve all been there at some point in our life… flipping burgers, bagging groceries, bank teller, babysitting. Not that there is anything wrong with these jobs. Let’s face it, if people didn’t do them, then life would be much more of an inconvenience. And, though there are some that enjoy working the drive-thru at the fast food joint, many of us accept these jobs as a means of getting by, whether it be working through school or even because we have no other options and must simply earn a paycheck.

But, deep down inside, we all have a dream to do and be something else. Many of us want to work for ourselves. The ambition to be an entrepreneur is usually in the back of everyone’s mind. And though the numbers of entrepreneurs out there continue to grow, it is far too often that people have dreams and do nothing to pursue them.

You have a couple of options. The first is that you can be one of those people who has a dream his entire life, but never makes anything of it outside of an occasional hobby. Such people typically claim that life has thrown so many obstacles at them that it would be impossible to pursue their dream. And they are full of excuses, such as not having the means to get started.

Continue Reading: “Seeking a Dream”

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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, December 16th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Expanding Your Business Overseas: Why and Why Not?

At some point in the self-owned business timeline, an entrepreneur will inevitably face the question of whether or not to jump in the deep end and go global. Some entrepreneurs, like myself and the photography business I started, don’t necessarily have the means or desire. I want to stick with my local market. Others, however, especially businesses who provide a tangible product rather than a service, could easily stretch their boundaries beyond the shining seas.

Why Not?
To some these may be excuses, to others, legitimate reasons to evade a risky venture:

• Language barriers.
• You may be unfamiliar with cultural practices and etiquette.
• You may be unfamiliar with local law and politics.
• Limitations of foreign labor laws.
• Time consuming and complex.
• Difficult to find a partner you can trust.

A list of reasons to overlook the risks in order to help your business grow:

• 95% of the worlds’ consumers reside outside the U.S. (according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative) – those are all potential new customers!
• Possible untapped market.
• Because if you don’t, your competition will.
• You don’t have to actually move overseas to do business there – the internet is your gateway to expansion.
• The risk, reward and challenge are appealing.

Whatever side you teeter toward, remember that going global doesn’t have to be a “right now” sort of thing. It’s always a possibility that you should consider, simply because you’re a business owner. If you are considering such an expansion, then there is a lot of work to be done before you begin. Be sure to check back the rest of the week as we continue discussing Expanding Your Business Overseas.

Pt. 2: Labor Laws
Pt. 3: Protecting Your Product
Pt. 4: Money and Taxes

• Gone Global (Inc. Magazine April 2007 cover story)

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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, December 15th, 2016 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Operations |

Getting the Most Out of E-Mail Marketing

Among the ever popular forms of marketing such as TV and radio ads, billboards, fliers and business cards, e-mail is another popular way to stay connected with current and future consumers. But how do you establish an e-mail list that won’t “spam” your incoming messages? And how do you keep people on that list?

List Sign-up
The best way to establish and keep a successful e-mail marketing list is to offer a list sign-up on your website and other marketing materials. That way, people who are interested in your product and special offers, and who want to hear about them, will be the recipients of your e-mails, which will help to keep them from being marked spam.

Continue Reading: “Getting the Most Out of E-Mail Marketing”

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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, December 14th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Technology |

How to Fire an Employee

In the words of Donald Trump, “You’re Fired!” As a small business owner with employees there may come a time when you have to terminate someone’s income stream. It’s that dreaded day that some of us hope will never come.

If and when the firing time comes, be prepared by following these 9 steps:

1) Check your past feedback.
What are your relations with this employee? If on decent terms don’t fire immediately, rather, give them time for change under a new way of doing things to your standards.

2) Give them a warning.
Give the employee an ultimatum to change, else risk loosing their job. 30 days is a fair time span for change.

3) Focus on specific behavior goals.
What do you want them to change about their performance? Be prepared for your meeting with the worker to discuss the issues and ways to fix them.

Continue Reading: “How to Fire an Employee”

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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources |