Small Business Tips

March 2017 Archive
Why Trump & Kiyosaki Want Us to Be Rich

We all know who “the Trump” is, so he needs little introduction. To summarize his expansive money-making career, he is a graduate of Wharton School of Finance and prosperous real estate tycoon. He’s the star and co-producer of the ever popular reality show Apprentice and author of seven bestsellers.

Robert Kiyosaki came from a small sugar plantation town in Hawaii, only to move to New York for education. He is an investor and a mining and real estate entrepreneur. He is best known for his book on financial philosophy called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Published in 1997, and selling over 26 million copies worldwide since that time, this book has been translated into 46 different languages and is available in 97 countries.

These two financial gurus teamed up to write and publish “Why We Want You to Be Rich,” which hit bookstores on October 10th. To the disappointment of most, this is not a book of specific advice on how to make or invest money. It is a book of philosophy, with the intention of providing the middle class with means to change their attitude about money and obtain a financial education.

In a video available on Amazon.com, Trump claims that he is not afraid of failing. “What is there to be afraid of?” he says, further stating that, when one considers all the turmoil in the world, nothing else really matters. Kiyosaki follows with the fact that he and Trump are better people because they have both failed and made a comeback from that failure, which provided them with a sound education about money that the two wanted to share. Because, “financial education is more important than ever before.”

The central principal of this book is that Trump and Kiyosaki firmly believe that, within the next decade or so, our country will be a two-class system — rich and poor. They believe that the middle class is deteriorating rapidly due to the falling value of the dollar, rising national debt, lower wages, higher oil prices and baby-boom retirement. It is time for everyone to learn how to “think big” and “think rich,” otherwise your other option will be the poorhouse.

The introduction of the book states that “saving is obsolete and bad financial advice.” For example, Trump and Kiyosaki believe that the 401(k) savings plan will not be adequate for approximately 80% of all workers to provide for their future. They support investments such as real estate and starting your own business as the best means to building personal wealth.

Trump claims that this book will provide the reader with a “better life.” He contends that money isn’t everything but it “makes life easier.” It is about “attitude” and “creation of wealth.” He also advices that everyone needs to “know your subject.” Investing in real estate without understanding it can lead to your downfall.

Kiyosaki admits that their book is different from the traditional financial book that says to live below your means, save and invest. He and Trump’s advice is that one should learn how to expand his means, like they do. Also, watch long-term trends — see where the money is going so that you know what to invest in.

So what do you think? Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on Trump and Kiyosaki’s financial philosophy? Some believe it is just another way for Trump and Kiyosaki to make more money — do you contend? Or has their philosophy worked for you?

Sources:
• Amazon.com: Why We Want You to Be Rich
• Kiplinger.com: Book Review
• Kiplinger.com: Q&A With Trump and Kiyosaki
• Kansas City Star: Trump book contradicts standard advice

Trump/Kiyosaki Resources:
• WhyWeWantYouToBeRich.net: Book Website
• Trump.com: Donald Trump’s Website
• CashFlowTech.com: Rich Dad Website
• Wikipedia.org: Info on Robert Kiyosaki


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Pulling Your Teen Out of the Financial Hole
Avoiding Cash Flow Mistakes
Find a Financial Planner
Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8
Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, March 27th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Each year, Inc. Magazine lists what they call the “Inc. 500,” which is a list of America’s fastest growing privately owned businesses. I highly recommend reading the stories of these entrepreneurs — they are very inspirational.

What stuck out to me about this year’s list is that at least 55 of the 500 business owners were not born in the US. Their companies employ more than 14,000 and contributed in excess of $1.36 billion to the economy last year.

Every census taken from 1880 to 1990 revealed that immigrants were self-employed significantly more than American-born natives. The number of immigrant entrepreneurs in 2005 was 350 out of 100,000, compared to 280 of 100,000 for those born on American soil. Clearly, there is something to be said about “the land of opportunity.”

There have been numerous studies into the dynamics of immigrant entrepreneurs, many reaching the conclusion that immigration has “strengthened the entrepreneurial drive” within our nation, contributing to the surge of small businesses over the last few decades.

The Driving Force Behind Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Why are immigrants more likely to start their own business? There are a number of reasons. Consider the risk it takes to pick up everything and move to a country where the majority of people don’t even speak your language. Immigrants deal with a high rate of uncertainty in that alone, so starting their own business would comparatively seem but a moderate risk.

There is also the factor that many immigrants face numerous struggles and frustrations in the large business work force, as they are often paid unfairly and required to work uncommon hours. This often leads immigrants to seek other options, which typically includes starting their own business, as they recognize that they can offer a variety of products and services that many other entrepreneurs cannot.

It is often stereotyped that immigrant businesses are usually small “mom-and-pop” restaurants or dry-cleaners, but the options for many immigrants has vastly expanded in the past few decades. Those who moved to the US to obtain a higher education, rather than flee oppression, account for a number of the successful immigrant entrepreneurs in our country. It is estimated that up to 25% of Silicon Valley firms were established by immigrants.

Immigrant communities also tend to provide a strong degree of support for each other. First generation immigrants, who made their living with the “mom-and-pop” businesses, tend to push their children to explore other professions, such as legal or medical professions. Others may take new immigrants in under their wing, providing apprenticeships so that the newcomers can either take over the business or start successfully on their own.

There have been numerous studies into the perceived benefits or disservices of immigrant entrepreneurs, but, with so many differing opinions, little definitive information has been established. Some find them to aid the economy, while others find them to be exclusive and harmful. Questions remain without answers.

So, what are your thoughts? What, if anything, do immigrant businesses contribute to our economy? Our society? How many jobs do they create? What sort of jobs? Do they aid in foreign trade?

Please share your opinions on these or any other issues regarding immigrant entrepreneurs.

Source / Related Readings:
• Carnegie Endowment: Immigrant Entrepreneurs
• Inc.com — Inc.500: The Immigration Debate
• Business Journal: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Reaching Higher
• Inc.com: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Outpace Native-Born Americans

The Negative Position:
• VDare.com: Less Benefit Than They’re Cracked Up to Be


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
What Makes Women Entrepreneurs Different from Men?
Local Currency Helps Small Business
Startup Myths Keep Entrepreneurs Motivated
Baby Boomers Expected to Lead Business Boom
Learning From Experienced Entrepreneurs

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, March 26th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ventures |

Stronger Business Through Honest Communication

Employers often expect honesty from their staff, but usually don’t provide the environment in which employees feel like they can be honest. It is more likely that an employee will simply tell you what they think you want to hear.

Unfortunately, this attitude does not provide a stable work environment and can often harm your business in the long run. You can’t be everywhere at once, so you depend on your employees to tell you when something is wrong. If they do not feel comfortable being completely honest with you, then there is a lot of information you could be missing.

One of the key elements to maintaining a successful and growing business is to create an honest workplace environment by implementing the following as a part of your business structure:

Define

Provide your employees with your definitions and expectations of honest communication in the workplace, such as:

• Always state the facts, without attempting to interpret “why.”
• Take a deep breath and don’t let emotions cloud your judgment.
• Don’t point fingers or place blame.
• Talk to the person you have a grievance with about the situation.
• Ask open-ended questions to stimulate productive conversation.
• Work together to determine possible solutions.

Clarify

Make the vision and goals of the business clear. Have monthly staff meetings to set those goals and determine the strengths and weaknesses of the business over the last month. Encourage your employees to participate in determining what those strengths and weaknesses are.

Clarify your expectations for your employees, providing a structured environment that they can depend on to be consistent and reliable.

Encourage and Motivate

Tell your employees that you value them. When someone does a great job, let them know that you appreciate their hard work. Don’t assume that they realize it on their own.

Show your employees that you value them. Compensate them for a job well done by providing a deserving salary. Also consider performance bonuses and annual or semi-annual raises when they have showed themselves loyal and productive.

Provide a comfortable working environment by developing relationships with your employees. Don’t treat them like your subordinates, make them feel as though they are part of the team.

Ask for both positive and negative feedback. Let them know that their thoughts matter to you.

Set an Example

Be reliable. Consider your employees’ best interests and provide a structured and consistent environment.

Be attentive. When your employees come to you and have something to say, give them your full attention (schedule a meeting if you have to) and hear them out. Don’t make any decisions before hearing everything they have to say.

Be authentic. Practice what your preach. If you expect honest communication from your employees, then you have to provide the same to them on a regular and consistent basis.

Be inspiring. Convey your passion and dreams for the business. Let them see that you enjoy your work. Show them that every aspect of your business is important to you, especially your staff.

Providing an environment in which your employees feel as though they can be honest with you will allow your business to develop a solid foundation. If the atmosphere behind the doors of your business is not positive, then it will be hard to develop that atmosphere outside them. Honest communication within plays a vital role in building a business that will obtain its goals and succeed.

Sources/Related Readings:
• Smart Business Network: Solid Leadership
• Entrepreneur.com: The Truth?
• NewsWise.com: Honesty in the Workplace Sorely Lacking


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
It’s all in the Family: How to Setup a Family Business
What Employees Want from You
What Makes Women Entrepreneurs Different from Men?
Hiring an Ad Agency for Your Business
Finding An Employee That Matches Your Leadership Style

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, March 25th, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Operations, Ownership |

Preventing Employee Theft

Employee theft is more prominent than most business owners realize. The average business loses approximately 6% of revenue to fraud each year, and typically employees are to blame. Nearly one-third of business bankruptcies are due to employee fraud. Chances are at least one of your employees is stealing from you right now.

The first step to preventing employee theft is to know the common avenues, keeping in mind that it is not limited to just these forms.

Forging Receipts — charging extra and pocketing the difference.
Pocketing Loose Change — Employee assumes that a dollar here or there won’t be missed from the petty cash box.
Stealing Supplies — taking a pen or paper clips on a regular basis because they don’t believe it will negatively affect the business.
Stealing Equipment — taking equipment to a job site and then taking it home, often claiming it was misplaced or stolen.
Reimbursement Fraud — claiming they provided items to the company, but never actually doing so. This also includes embellishing on expenses they incur while working, such as mileage.

There are a number of preventative measures you can take in order to sway your employees’ temptation to steal from the company.

Implement Easier Systems
Confusing and complicated accounting or bookkeeping systems, often those done by hand, make it easier for employees to cover their tracks when committing fraud. Small businesses are at greater risk because they typically rely on only one person to handle the accounting responsibilities since the system is so complex.

Avoid this temptation by implementing a simpler accounting system, such as accounting software. Also, consider cross-train people in your company on that system, including yourself, so that there are checks and balances. If more eyes are examining the books, the errors, whether intentional or not, will more easily be found.

Use a “Check-Out” Method
For businesses that have equipment that is used outside the work place, consider requiring you employees check it out. Have them write down the date, their name, the piece of equipment, the job site, etc. When they are through using it, have them check it back in. This will allow for you to hold a particular person responsible for the equipment, should it not be returned to the business.

This system may not work as well unless someone is in charge of it. If possible, you should have them come to you to check equipment out. If your busy schedule does not allow for you to keep track, put one or two people in charge of it that you can count on to be honest.

Eliminate Exit Options
Many businesses that have a night shift see a sharp increase in employee theft during that time. Often it is because the employee has too many unmonitored exiting options. Night shift employees should only have one or two exit locations. Those locations should be equipped with video surveillance or guards to be sure that no one leaves the building with unauthorized company belongings.

Get a History Before Hiring
Before hiring a new employee, obtain both their criminal and credit history. Surprisingly, the credit history is probably the more important of the two. If a potential employee is overwhelmed with debt, then the pressure to steal from your business increases dramatically, often convincing himself that he needs it more than you do.

Implement a Company Theft Policy
This is probably the most effective preventive measure you can take. In the policy, explain the company’s code of ethics. Specify the rules regarding office supplies, company equipment, etc. Be sure to indicate that employees who steal from the company will be prosecuted. Have each current employee, and all new employees upon hire, read and sign the policy to be effective immediately.

Have a Company Meeting
If an employee is discovered stealing from the company, it would be a good idea to call everyone together and let them know what’s going on. Outline how these actions negatively affect the company by providing them with the actual numbers. You’ll be surprised how many employees don’t realize that their unethical actions could destroy your business, and their job.

Implement an Anonymous Reveal Method
Provide a means for loyal employees to anonymously notify you of employee theft within the company. The pressure among co-workers to protect each other is strong, but anonymity will provide an employee with piece of mind on all levels. Employee Theft Anonymous is a great online source for allowing loyal employees to combat the fear of being a tattle-tail.

Don’t allow employee theft to get the best of you by hoping it will just go away without any effort on your part. The longer you let it go unchecked, the bigger the threat to the well-being of your business. And remember, more often then not, it is the veteran employee, who knows your business well enough to find the cracks, that takes advantage of an opportunity. Take action and smother the temptation before it has the chance to surface.

Sources:
• Inc.com: Are Your Staffers Stealing?
• Small Business Association: Common-Sense Measures for Preventing Employee Theft

Related Readings:
•CNN Money:Arresting Employee Theft
• About.com: Employee Theft – The Profit Killer
• Inc.com: Employee Theft Still Costing Business


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product
How and When You Should Pay Yourself
Protecting Your Clientele
Competing for Business with a Former Employer
New EEOC Guidelines Expand Employee Protection

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, March 24th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources |

Building New Business Contacts: Networking 101

Contacts are an important aspect of any business, but are essential to the survival of a small business. Without contacts you cannot expand your clientele and your business will not grow. Below are some pointers on how to continually expand your list of contacts.

1) Ask your current/ongoing network for new contacts.
Your current network includes:
• Previous employers, associates and co-workers
• Successful friends and family
• Long lost high school and college classmates
• Current clientele

2) Use your daily activities to your advantage.
Your everyday social activities can provide great connections. For example, when going to play golf with a friend, ask him to bring some of his colleagues along. Such activities afford an opportunity to market yourself and your business in a relaxed social environment.

Use this quality time to build trusting relationships. Be yourself and don’t bring up your business unless the conversation leads that direction. You don’t want to come on too strong and irritate a potential client. After all, the purpose of playing golf is to relax and not deal with work issues, despite the fact that everyone is continually thinking about them.

3) Join a professional organization.
Professional organizations provide an outstanding opportunity to network. However, before joining any organization, be sure research the organization and make sure it is the best option for you and your business. Some key questions to ask are:

• Are their membership fees and how often are they due?
• Is there a certain time commitment expected of members?
• Are their conferences (opportunities to meet people natiionwide)?
• How active are the members; will they participate as much as you?
• Is the organization industry focused?
• Are their opportunities for “cross-pollination” with your company?

4) Attend conferences in your industry.
Not only do industry conferences provide an opportunity to expand your network, but they also provide a plethora of information about the latest trends, developments, etc. in your industry. It is a venue with access to both competitors and potential clientele, which opens opportunities for you to better your business as well as expand it.

Key elements to successfully establishing new contacts:
• Commit your sales script to memory. Don’t recite the entire script with each introduction, but know it so that you can communicate the key elements to others throughout your conversation.
• Ask conference attendees you already know for introductions.
• Follow-up with the people you met by sending a letter within a week, requesting an official meeting.

5) Help others establish their network.
What goes around comes around. If you help others find potential clientele, they will likely help you as their own network expands.

Regardless of whether you use one or all of these recommendations, always remember that networking takes time. You may not see the fruits of your labor for months, and sometimes even years. But, make a positive impact, and most people are sure to think of you when they need the services you provide.

Today’s Source:
• BusinessWeek.com: Ties That Bind and Build a Business

Related Readings:
• Inc.com: Become a Master Networker
• The Boston Globe: Networking Tips
• Small Business Association: Networking
• Entrepreneur.com: Networking – Simply Your Company’s Story


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
How to Profit From Networking
Ways to Promote Yourself
The Networking Boogie Man
Connections Trump Contacts
Stop Sitting on the Sidelines

By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking |

Debt Collection Strategies that Work (2 of 2)

PART 2 OF 2 – WHEN CLIENTS STILL WON’T PAY

We covered strategies to avoid “deadbeat” clients in part one, but inevitably someone is going to slip past your tactics and still be noncompliant with payment. What then?

It is best to take action when 30 days have passed with no payment or contact from a client. First, enclose a personal letter with their next invoice. Restate the written agreement regarding payments (consider enclosing a copy) and that they are in violation of that agreement.

If a client cannot afford the entire balance due, they may get overwhelmed and simply ignore the bill, hoping it will disappear on its own. Where the logic is in this, I’m not sure, but it is reality. Consider offering to make monthly payment arrangements with the client in your letter, especially if the balance due is rather large.

It is important, however, that you suggest the monthly payment amount, which should be approximately ten to twenty percent of the outstanding balance, and specify their first due date. Provide the client with the option to contact you if the suggested amount will not work on their budget. If they do so, be sure to negotiate an amount that is not too hard on them, but will serve to get the whole balance paid in a timely manner.

Once you have made payment arrangements with a client, continue charging interest on the outstanding balance for the first couple of months. If the client makes her payments consistently during that time period, consider waiving all future finance charges so that her bill will diminish more quickly. This will also give the client an incentive to continue making payments.

—-
Before venturing any further, this is a disclaimer that I am not an attorney, however, I have three years experience working for collections attorneys and I am very familiar with collection law. From this point on you must tread lightly when attempting to collect a debt from a client. I recommend that you examine the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which is Federal law regarding what is required of any debt collector, even if you are not a collection agency or attorney.
—-

Many articles I’ve read on the topic of collections, including those listed below, recommend that you write and call the client a number of times and be persistent, increasing your directness and determination gradually. However, I DO NOT recommend writing and/or calling the client more than once. There are precise laws in place that protect a debtor from what can be deemed “harassing” contact. If you contact your client more than twice about an unpaid balance, you risk being sued for harassment, and no bill is worth that.

Give the client until the next statement cycle to respond to your letter. If they have not, call them, but only once. Even if you get a voicemail, I recommend that you leave a message but do not attempt to contact them by telephone again. If you get no response, then you must first determine whether the balance due is worth pursuing further. This is the point where you may begin to incur expenses to collect the debt owed.

If you decide that the unpaid balance is worth pursuing, you have a few options to proceed with:

1) Turn it over to a collection agency.
Keep in mind that collection agencies will keep 10-50% of anything collected on your behalf. Their primary means of collecting a debt are letters and telephone calls. Personally, I do not think a collection agency is your best option. More or less, they do what you could do on your own, except that they will report the debt to the credit bureau and are willing to risk a more threatening tone with the debtor if necessary.

2) Take the debtor to Small Claims Court.
Providing that the balance owed to you is within the limitations set by the court (you will need to check with your local clerk), small claims court will cost less than $100 to pursue and you can represent yourself. This saves the added expense of hiring an attorney. You will need to have a paper trail to validate the debt before the judge. Your strongest piece of evidence is the agreement you and the client initially signed. However, it is also helpful to have photographs or examples of the services you provided, copies of invoices, and notes from telephone conversations, etc.

Before you can pursue a case in Small Claims Court, you will have to send the client a demand letter. This is a requirement under the FDCPA and is different from the letter suggesting payment arrangements you may have sent to the client earlier. There are specific legal requirements for a demand letter. Please refer to Section 809 of the FDCPA, which lists those requirements in detail.

Typically, if you provide the necessary information to prove that the client owes you money, the Small Claims Court will find on your behalf and there will be a judgment entered against the client. However, it is still up to you to collect the debt. This can be time consuming and difficult, as your options for doing so are limited.

3) Hire a Collections Attorney.
It is important that you know upfront that a collections attorney will either take a percentage of what they collect (usually around 25%) or will charge you an hourly rate. However, unlike with a collections agency, some of your attorney fees can be offset, if you took the correct steps in your initial agreement with the client.

If your agreement stipulates that the client would be responsible for attorney fees should a lawsuit be necessary, then you will be able to collect reasonable attorney fees (usually 15% of the debt) as a part of your judgment. This an advantage to hiring an attorney yourself. Collection agencies will not pursue a judgment without hiring an attorney, and, if they do so, your fees would not be reimbursed.

Collections attorneys file a Petition in the Associate Circuit Court of the county where the debtor resides. The debtor is then served with a summons to appear in court. If they do not appear, the a judgment is entered against them automatically. If they do appear and admit to owing the debt, a judgment is still entered. Only if the debtor disputes the debt in court will the case go to trial, and it has been my experience that only 10-20% of the cases do so. Even if the case goes to trial, it is likely that you will still get a judgment against the debtor, especially if you have a contract and a paper trial to prove your case.

It is also much easier for an attorney to collect the debt once a judgment is entered. They have the means to file a garnishment on the debtor’s wages, bank account, even business. They can also file a lien against real estate the debtor owns or confiscate personal property, such as a vehicle, as payment for the debt. These options are not readily available to you if you have a judgment through small claims court.

An attorney will do everything legally possible to collect every last penny of what is owed to you, and then some, such as attorney fees and interest. They will do all the work, including the demand letter, and you will be free to continue business without the added burden of trying to collect an unpaid debt. It has been my experience that an attourney can provide the best results in the shortest amount of time.

Always consult with an attorney before pursuing any debt collection strategy. The opinions in this article are not to be taken as official guidance but rather as an informational supplement to your overall debt collection strategy.

PART 1: Avoiding Deadbeat Customers

Sources/Related Readings:
• SeniorMag.com: Bill Collections
• About.com: Collection Letter Secrets
• FindArticles.com: Collecting Payments Due
• BusinessKnowHow.com: Small Business Collection Strategies


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Debt Collection Strategies that Work (1 of 2)
When to Consider Bankruptcy as an Option
Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation
Fire Bad Clients to Increase Profits
How to Improve Your Credit Score

By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Debt Collection Strategies that Work (1 of 2)

Part 1 of 2 — AVOIDING THE “DEADBEATS”

It’s inevitable that any business owner, big or small, is going to encounter clients that are just not willing to pay. This is especially prominent in the service industry, as services are an ongoing process and not a one-time product purchase.

It is no surprise that many small businesses do not survive the first two years, and the inabilities to collect from nonpaying clients are likely a large contributor business failure.

The first realization a small business owner must come to is, no matter how nice a client is or how much business they bring you, if they do not pay then they are not a good customer. It is never a good idea to continue doing business with a client who ignores an unpaid invoice.

Despite what you may think, a non-paying client is typically doing so on purpose, not because it slipped their mind. Yes, there may be strenuous circumstances in some instances that provide an exception to the rule, but until your client notifies you of such, and his reasons are legitimate, you can assume that he is avoiding payment.

When you first start your business, there are certain strategies you can implement that will help you to avoid the burden of non-paying clients.

Establish Payment Guidelines
Let clients know from the start what your guidelines are. Explain on your brochure, website, order form, etc. the available payment options for the services you provide. Once you’ve established these guidelines, it is imperative that you stick with them. If a client senses that you are lax in collecting the payment as set out, they may take advantage of it.

Consider Upfront Payment
When providing a service, business owners have a tendency to do the work first and bill later, which can result in collection problems. Your safest bet is to require full or partial payment upfront. If your business provides a short-term service, such as carpet cleaning, payment in full upfront is not too much to ask of your customer. If your business provides a long-term service, such as computer programming, then it is more than reasonable to obtain partial payment upfront.

In fact, you might consider requiring one-third of the payment upfront, another third at the halfway point of the project, and the remaining third within two weeks of completion. If you adopt this rule, or something similar, be determined to not continue or finish the project until the payment due is received. Inform the client of this payment plan in the beginning and, chances are, they will be sure to pay on time because they want the finished product.

Develop an Accounts Receivable Department
Some small business owners are tempted to allow the sales department to also deal with accounts receivable. If your business has the ability to hire the employees, establish a separate accounts receivable department or put someone in charge of collecting payments. This will insure that someone is always aware of what clients have paid and what clients are behind.

Put it in Writing
Make this your policy with every new client. Legitimate clients understand that you need the terms of your business relationship in writing in order to protect your business. Be sure your agreement covers what product/service you will provide, when you will provide it and how much and when the client is to pay, including any interest/finance charges applied to late payments. If a potential client refuses to sign the contract, then they likely won’t pay you and are not worth your time.

It is also important to state in the contract that, should the client not make payments as agreed, you reserve the right to pursue action through the court. Also state that, should court action be necessary, the client would be responsible for paying court costs and your attorney fees. Let the client know that this is simply a precaution and you have no reason to believe that court action will be necessary. However, if the unfortunate occurs and you have to pursue a lawsuit to collect what is owed to you, you cannot collect attorney fees to offset your expenses if it is not stated in your original agreement.

Have Clear and Concise Invoices
Your invoices will need to be systematic and dependable. Again, if you are lax in sending invoices consistently, then the client will get the impression that payment is not a high priority. Be sure that your invoices are numbered, that the billing terms and due date are visible and clear, and that they are sent to the correct person. I highly recommend using invoice software, such as Tabs3 or Billing Tracker. Google search “invoicing software” and find the program that best fits your needs.

Provide Incentives for Prompt Payment
Give your clients a reason to pay their invoices as soon as they receive them, whether positive or negative. Some options are:

Take credit card payments. Often this will give the client the ability to pay their entire invoice at once. Keep in mind, however, that, with each credit card transaction you accept, a percentage of that sale goes to the credit card company. Make sure it is an expense your business can handle.

Give a discount for payments made promptly. Consider offering, say, a ten percent discount if the client pays their invoice within 15 days.

Charge interest on overdue accounts. Consider charging your client interest on the unpaid balance if payment is not made within 30 days of invoice. A common interest rate is 18 percent per year, which equates to 1 ½ percent per month. Most invoicing software will calculate interest on an unpaid balance automatically.

What if they still won’t pay?

Working as a legal assistant to collection attorneys for three years, I have some helpful advice to share. Part two of Debt Collection Strategies that Work covers what steps you should take when a “deadbeat” client slips past your guard dog tactics.

Always consult with an attorney before pursuing any debt collection strategy. The opinions in this article are not to be taken as official guidance but rather as an informational supplement to your overall debt collection strategy.

PART 2: When Clients Still Won’t Pay

Sources/Related Readings:
• SeniorMag.com: Bill Collections
• About.com: Collection Letter Secrets
• FindArticles.com: Collecting Payments Due
• BusinessKnowHow.com: Small Business Collection Strategies


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Debt Collection Strategies that Work (2 of 2)
How to Improve Your Credit Score
How to Survive an Earnout
When to Consider Bankruptcy as an Option
Fire Bad Clients to Increase Profits

By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Money |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4

FINALIZING YOUR PRODUCT AND YOUR BUSINESS ACTION PLAN

FINALIZE YOUR PRODUCT
There are a number of items that need to be considered in the development and finalization of your product or service. The first thing to remember is that “finalizing” does not mean eternal. Your product should always grow and develop as the need presents itself.

Use Focus Groups
A focus group is simply a group of potential consumers that test your product and give you honest feedback. Your personal passion for your product can cloud your judgment and leave you “selling only to yourself.” A focus group will help provide fresh ideas on how to better your product and meet the needs and desires of the consumer.

It is important to keep an open-mind and not become defensive; remembering that the feedback you receive will generally be the same from any consumer. Write down every comment and rely on those that are most useful to perfect your product. It is also recommended that you use a focus group any time you make significant changes to your product.

Determine the Price of Your Product
The price of your product must entice the buyer, as well as cover overhead costs, production and distribution of the product, labor, marketing – everything it takes to run your business. The price needs to do more than make your business come out even. A successfully priced product should result in profit!

To determine a viable price for your product or service:

1) Define your financial goals.
Examine the income which is required to provide for you and your family, outside of supplying the business (living expenses, etc.). It is often best to observe your monthly spending trends, because the profits of your company will likely fluctuate on a monthly basis.

This will help you to determine the minimum profit you need to sustain your business and an acceptable income. Also, examine your long-term financial goals, such as savings. You want to determine how you can you realistically adjust the price of your product to provide for your financial needs and desires.

2) Research current market trends.
Supply and demand will always effect how well your product sells. If it is priced too high when the demand is low, it will not sell. If it is priced too low when the demand is high, you take the risk of not breaking even. It is important to determine a “safety range” for the price of your product based upon recent market trends.

3) Compare to the Competition.
Shop around via the internet and local stores or service providers and compare the prices of your competitors. Get in the head of the consumer and determine what price you would be willing to pay based upon the competition.

Your price will need to be competitive with other businesses producing the same product or service in order for it to sell. Your product should only be substantially more expensive if it has significant features that the competition does not offer.

4) Assess Business Expenses.
You need to determine how much it will cost to run your business and how much it will cost to product each product. Obtain price quotes from manufacturers. Determine how much your supplies will cost. If you have employees, how much will you pay them? What are the costs of marketing and distributing your product?

All of these are a part of what it takes to run a successful business and the price of your product should reflect that. Start with estimated costs in the beginning and use real costs as your business grows.

Determining the right price for your product or service is a system of trial and error. If your product is not selling, the price should be the first aspect of your product that you re-exam, simply because it is the easiest aspect to adjust.

Develop a Marketing Strategy
Your product will do nothing for you without a marketing strategy. It is imperative that you reveal your product to the public in a honest and attention-grabbing manner.

In order to target the correct audience for your products, you must:

• Define your customers.

• Research and discover the best medium (i.e. television, radio, billboard, magazine, etc.) with which you can reach your customers.

• Brainstorm ideas for your advertisements, enlisting help from others including focus groups, and asking them what would catch their attention.

• Implement your favorite idea, because, if you like it best, you will follow through with it.

• Finally, test the marketing strategy. If it doesn’t work, try a different one and try, try again.

FINALIZE YOUR BUSINESS ACTION PLAN
you will find that your business action plan has developed as you go through the startup process that we have covered the past few days. Your business plan is not only for today, but helps to coordinate the future of your business. I refer to it as a business “action” plan because, once you reach this point and have established the following items, you are ready to take action and become a successful entrepreneur:

Revamp and Redefine.
Make the final revisions to your sales script and clearly define your business.

Develop Process Sheets
Process sheets will eventually serve as your “operations manual.” Basically, process sheets detail the what, how, who and when for each aspect of your functioning business.

What: Determine each process of your business, such as order placement, packaging, etc.

How: List the steps to complete each process in a satisfactory manner.

Who: Determine who will be responsible for each process.

When: Decide on the appropriate amount of time for each process to be completed.

Operation and Administration
You will also need to determine all of the “departments” that will keep your business running smoothly, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, legal department, sales, marketing, etc. For each department, provide an explanation of its function, list the information you have collected during your business research regarding that department, determine what results you want from that department, and what is necessary to obtain those results.

I highly recommend that you visit the link to the Small Business Association’s website below. It has an outlined example of a business plan that should be very helpful. Always remember that your business plan, any many other aspects of your business that we have addressed this week, will continually change and develop as your business does.

Reevaluate and revise your business plan as often as necessary to provide a stable and sufficient structure for your business.

DISCUSSION
I have taken you through the basic principles for starting a successful business, so now I want to hear from you. Have I covered aspects of starting a business that you have tried? What were your results? How have sales scripts and focus groups (or anything else I covered) helped your business develop? If you are just starting, what about the topics I covered most interests you? Did I leave something out that you found crucial to starting your business?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• MarketingPrinciples.com: Small Business Market Strategy
• Bizhelp24.com: Unique Selling Points of Your Product
• SiteSell.com: Pricing Your Product
• Business Toolkit: Marketing Your Product
• Small Business Administration: Writing a Business Plan


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
Testing New Marketing Ideas
Starting a New Business

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, March 20th, 2017 @ 12:08 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4

DEVELOPING A SALES SCRIPT AND ADDRESSING OBSTACLES

Developing a Sales Script
The purpose of a sales script is to generate belief in you and your product. It should inspire others to support you in your path to success rather than question your abilities. Your sales script will quickly become the cornerstone for marketing your business.

A sales script should be no more than one page in length and should address the following:

1. The name of your business and your instant impact message (refer to part two for information on developing an instant impact message).

2. Your top three products or services and a brief description of each.

3. Show that your product/service works by providing at least two testimonials from clients.

4. A brief biography, including your previous experience, why you created the business and your anticipated goal.

5. Contact information, which should include address, facsimile, e-mail, website, etc.

Have your sales script handy at all times, and use it to start conversations about your business at networking events or marketing functions.

A sales script is very important when dealing with others on a corporate level. But what about possible customers that you come across throughout your daily routine? In this situation, a sales script can be somewhat overpowering. I highly recommend that you use business cards to draw a potential customer’s attention on an individual level.

Your business card should contain all available contact information and your instant impact message. The design of your business card is also crucial to the impact it makes in determining whether or not a potential customer is willing to contact you for service. Read more about how to design a high-impact business card.

Addressing Obstacles
While trudging through the startup process, you will inevitably come across obstacles that may threaten your business and rattle your confidence. Don’t dismiss these treats, no matter how small and insignificant they seem, because doing so can have disastrous results. Rather, create a plan to overcome them.

• Make a list of everything you have accomplished thus far to regenerate your confidence.

• Write down the obstacles that lie in front of you and indicate whether they are avoidable or unavoidable.

• Indicate what evasive action you intend to make toward the avoidable obstacles.

• Write out a plan for how to turn the unavoidable obstacles into an opportunity for your business, and you individually, to grow and develop. You may consider consulting with a trusted successful entrepreneur to get their input on how they might manage those situations.

• Determine your “Rules to Live By.” Make a list of opportunities you will not pass up and action you vow to always take when obstacles come your way in the future.

Always remember that a threat is only as damaging as you allow it to be. If you vow to meet all challenges head on, with a positive and determined attitude, you will find a way to pull through with a stronger business in tow.

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• SuccessConsciousness.com: The Power of Positive Thinking
• BusinessWeek.com The Real Stats of Business Failure
• University of Tennessee: Planning Against a Business Failure


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, March 19th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4

PART 2 – RESEARCH THE INDUSTRY AND PROTECT YOUR IDEA

Research the Industry
Now that you have established the product and/or service that you business will provide, you need to learn as much as possible about the industry that is already out there.

As stated in Part One, it is likely that you are not the first person to come up with a business like yours. However, researching what is already out there will help you to develop a business that addresses needs and desires that the competition lacks.

Research the product/service:

• Find out how many options are already out there and what their similarities and differences, pros and cons are.

• Find reviews from consumers that have used the product or service, both positive and negative. A great source for this is Consumer Report, which uses a number of similar products and rates their preformance. I also recommend Epinions.com, where actual consumers review products they have used.

• Use your research to determine how you can make your product or service better. What can set you apart from the competition?

Talk to others who have succeeded:

• It is best, of course, to talk to others in the same industry, but not necessary. Any success story will do.

• Ask them about the strengths and weaknesses of their business.

• Find out what obstacles they have faced and what they have done to overcome them.

• If it is an option, go to someone you can trust to be honest with you. Someone that sees you as a potential consumer may tend to focus on the positive and stray from the negative. In order to be a success yourself, you need to be aware of both.

Research recent articles written about your industry:

• These will usually be unbiased and will weigh all the facts, pointing out both the positive and the negative.

• Discover information crucial to the development of your new business, such as recent trends, best strategies, new resources, marketing ideas, etc.

Keep a notebook:

• Throughout your research, always have a notebook on hand. Right down EVERY idea, regardless of whether you think you will use it. Often an “iffy” idea, when revisited, will spark a brilliant one.

• It is recommended that you revisit your idea list weekly.

Protect Your Idea
Legally, you don’t necessarily have to register your business name, logo or slogan in order for them to be protected by copyright and trademark laws. Typically, protective laws are based upon whoever used it first, but you will likely have to go to court to gain that protection.

Therefore, the best protection is to always keep a dated paper trail of everything you do, such as a daily planner. Take notes at all meetings, including those in attendance and each item discussed and decision made. If you ever need to go to court over an issue, your paper trail can serve as primary evidence in your defense.

If you do decide to register your business, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney. Most attorneys will not charge for an initial consultation, and will provide some basic information regarding your rights and how to protect yourself. You can also get some information from your local SBA office or chamber of commerce.

It is not necessary to have an attorney register your business. Usually you can do so yourself. However, if you intend on having Articles of Organization, By-laws, etc. associated with your business, it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to prepare these documents as this is the best way to insure every detail is thoroughly and accurately addressed.

Be sure to bookmark this page and check back tomorrow for part 3 of our 4 part series: Developing a Sales Script and Addressing Obtacles

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact.

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles.

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• Consumer Reports: Product Research
• Epinions.com: Consumer Reviews of Products
• Small Business Association: Small Business Law Library
• Small Business Association: Protecting Your Ideas
• Bizhelp24.com: Patents for Manufacturing Business


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Establishing Your Brand
Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
4 Ways to Keep Up on Industry Trends
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, March 18th, 2017 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

It’s time. You have decided that you are finally going to live the dream of starting your own business. Everything is falling into place and doors are open all around you. The question is, where do you begin?

Starting your own business is an impacting decision. Every step must be thoroughly thought out and calculated. Diving in without a plan for success and a process to get there will inevitably break you.

Therefore, this week we are starting from scratch. The next four days will cover the basic steps for becoming an entrepreneur and starting on the right track.

PART 1 – FOCUS AND IMPACT

Find Your Focus
The most important initiative to starting a business is to find your focus. Write it down, and keep it accessible. You might even consider keeping this information in plain sight so that you see it daily, for example, posted next to your computer.

Knowing your focus in your mind is one thing, but having it in front of you in black and white provides a clarity and permanence that can be very encouraging in times of doubt. Be as descriptive and thorough as possible, leaving no stone unturned.

When writing down your focus, be sure to address the following:

What is your goal on a personal level?
• What do you want out of this business?

What is your goal on a familial level?
• What sort of income are you looking to generate for your family?

What is your goal for others?
• What need do you plan to address with your product/service?
• Who will be your primary market?

It’s important to remember that, most likely, someone else has started a business quite similar to yours. You may also face self-doubt based on the questionable reactions of others when you mention your venture to become your own boss. Always remember that no one else has your goals or your intent.

When in doubt, revisit the focus that you mapped out to remind yourself of your determination and desire. Also, share it with those that may question the viable success of your business. You will likely impress upon them a stronger confidence in your ability to succeed.

Instant Impact Message
The first question that comes to the consumers mind when he sees a new product or service is “How will I benefit from this?” Step two in developing a successful new business is to develop an “instant impact message” that will help the consumer to immediately answer this question. This is a single statement that is highly powerful and reveals the core value of your business. Put simply, it is your slogan.

To develop your instant impact message, revisit the third item on your focus list – your goal for others. Pull out the main descriptive words that you feel truly portray the core of your business. As cheesy as it may sound, your instant impact message should reflect your heart. It is what your business stands for and should become such a crucial part of your business that, should you withdraw it, your business would not be the same.

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea.

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles.

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com – Starting a Business

Today’s Related Readings:
• Entrepreneur.com : Planning Your Business Plan
• SBA.gov: Business Plan Basics
• ICBS.com: Creating a Catchy Slogan


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8
Inexpensive Ways to Conduct Marketing Research

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, March 17th, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Startup |

Insurance for Small Businesses

Insurance isn’t typically top priority for a small business owner. Since accidents can and do happen it’s better to be prepared than sorry.

Here is a list of different insurance options that a small business owner may need:

• Health insurance is one of the most important insurance options of all, covering your general health and well-being.

• Disability insurance will guarantee income should you suddenly become unable to work because of injury or illness.

• Life insurance will help ensure that your family has the money it needs should you meet with an untimely death.

• Business property insurance helps protect you against loss of inventory or equipment in a flood, fire, or other disaster.

• Comprehensive general liability insurance protects you if someone is injured while on your property.

• Business interruption insurance will help your business recover from natural disasters by paying for operating expenses during downtime.

• Workers’ compensation insurance covers any medical expenses arising from injuries employees sustain while working for you.

Related Resources:
• About.com – Small Business Insurance
• Insure.com – Small Business Liability Tool
• MyOwnBusiness.org – Insurance For Small Business


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Preparing Your Business for Impending Disaster
Small Business Health Bill to Return to Senate
Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation
Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 4)
Preparing for Disaster

By Chris Brunner
Thursday, March 16th, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Ownership |

4 Ways to Keep Up on Industry Trends

In order to keep your business in top form it is imperative to be aware of emerging trends within your competitive marketplace. Peronsally, I try to stay ahead of the curve so that I am prepared when change happens.

Sometimes curveballs are thrown but if you do your homework you’ll find that you can win the guessing game.

Here are 4 tips to help you keep up on industry trends:

1) Set specific investigative times.
Set a time for yourself in order to research your sector for new trends. Industry is constantly evolving with every day that passes, are you aware of the leading edge?

2) Make trend spotting part of your daily routine.
Get into the habit of researching every day at the time you chose. Each time you research you are bettering not only your company but also yourself. Stay disciplined, stay on track and you will succeed.

3) Persistently investigate competitors.
Disect their offerings and compare it to yours. Do they have an advantage that you can meet or beat? If so, a change in plan might be needed. If you’re already ahead of the competition, maintain what you’ve got and think of ways to expand on your advantage.

4) Utilize the power of the Internet.
Use Google Alerts to notify you by email when a story featuring your industry is published. Keep track of the authors and other related stories they may cover. There are other powerful ways to use Google Alerts, but I have to keep those a secret.

Turn your research into an asset by applying what you learn to improve your business and create new products and services. This learning process will help you use your time effectively and take action with conviction.

Related Resources
• PCWorld.com – Tech/Industry Trends
• RileyGuide.com – Employment & Industry Trends
• ComputerWorld.com – Sleuthing Out Industry Trends


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Internet Search Advertising: Google vs. Yahoo
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
10 Opportunities for 2006
Building New Business Contacts: Networking 101

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, March 15th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

How to Sell Your Services Better

Regardless of the type of service you sell, a potential client will have a certain degree of risk worry when buying. They don’t really know what will be getting until they see the final outcome (or have really good references!).

Remember that service clients are buying a promise that you will do something for them to their satisfaction.

But there’s a problem with this… services are intangible—you can’t see them, touch them, take them out of the box or demonstrate them. Yet this is exactly what you need to do to make them easier for your customers to buy them.

How do you accomplish this?

• Turn your service into a product.
Create tip sheets, templates, worksheets and supporting educational pieces that share your expertise at a fraction of the cost of having you consult directly. Websites are great for this.

• Package your different service levels.
Do your services vary based on custom needs? If so, package the most popular services together for maximum price efficiency. Think of cable and satellight companies and how they package channel options.

• Combine your services and create a new offering.
Start by listening to what your customers are asking for and paying closer attention to their buying patterns. Find the niche that needs to be filled and fill it using what you already have set up. No need to reinvent the wheel!

• Package your process.
When it seems impossible to package what you deliver, differentiate your company and increase your perceived value by packaging how you deliver. This approach shows prospective customers you follow a logical approach and that you’re established, professional and capable.

Related Resources:
• NewFangled.com – Book Report: Selling the Invisible
• Entrepreneur.com – The Basics of Selling Services
• Entrepreneur.com – Selling Services


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
What Do Your Clients Need?
Getting Your Product to the National Market
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 4)
Adding Value to Your Business
Knowing Your Customers

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing |

IRS Offers Business Tax-Tips CD

April 15th is still more than six months away but the IRS is helping entrepreneurs prepare early by releasing its 2006 Small Business Resource Guide CD-ROM last week.

The free, interactive CD provides critical tax information for small businesses, including forms, instructions and publications. The CD provides valuable business information from a variety of government agencies, non-profit organizations and educational institutions.

The CD contains essential start-up information needed by new small businesses. The design of the CD incorporates file formats and browsers that can be run on virtually any desktop or laptop computer.

Small businesses can order up to five copies for free at the IRS Web site. To get your copy of the CD, call (800) 829-3676 or visit www.irs.gov/businesses/small/page/0,,id=7128,00.html


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
What is Branding?
Tips for Sorting Through Overwhelming Files
The Importance of a Logo
Which Internet Browser Should You Choose?
Effective Logo Design for Small Businesses

By Chris Brunner
Monday, March 13th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Taxes |

Elements of a Successful Business

Yesterday I covered the elements of a winning brand. Today I’ll take a look at what ingredients go into creating and maintaining a successful business.

Despite the bad news we so often hear about the number of small businesses closing or moving, a good percentage of small companies have learned what it takes to survive the early startup years.

• Company Culture
• Customer Service
• Attitude
• Business Strategy
• Discipline
• Risk
• Financial Roadmaps
• Business Processes
• Information Technology
• Marketing
• Sales
• Training
• Team of Advisors
• Work/Life Balance


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8
Knowing Your Customers
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Business Tips from Presidential Campaigns
6 Steps to Successful Sales

By Chris Brunner
Sunday, March 12th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Operations |

Elements of a Winning Brand

What people hear your company name, what words are associated with it? Some buzz words commonly associated with a brand are fast, reliable, friendly, discount, low prices, available, service, top rated and many many more.

Getting people to associate buzz words with your brand is what creating a winning brand is all about.

1) A winning brand is differentiated.
What separates your product or service from its competitors?

2) A winning brand promises value.
What does your brand bring to the table?

3) A winning brand acts like a leader.
Focus on improving customer experiences with your company.

4) A winning brand is consistent.
Your brand must be uniform across all marketing channels.


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Elements of a Successful Business
Leaders Can’t Do It Alone
Establishing Your Brand
Choosing a Business Name
Marketing Strategies for Halloween

By Chris Brunner
Saturday, March 11th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

Top Entrepreneurial Schools

You may think street smarts are enough to be a successful entrepreneur, but these top entrepreneurship programs are giving students the practical and theoretical knowledge they need to succeed in any venture.

Entrepreneur.com presents their top 10 undergraduate and graduate programs for entrepreneurship:

Top 10 Undergraduate Programs:
1. University of Arizona
2. Syracuse University
3. DePaul University
4. Temple University
5. University of Dayton
6. Drexel University
7. Fairleigh Dickinson University
8. University of North Dakota
9. University of Illinois, Chicago
10. Babson University

Top 10 Graduate Programs:
1. Syracuse University
2. DePaul University
3. Northwestern University
4. California State University, San Bernardino
5. University of Washington
6. University of Arizona
7. Temple University
8. Monterey Institute of International Studies
9. Indiana University, Bloomington
10. University of Louisville


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Inner City Kids Learn About Entrepreneurship
Immigration Laws Proving Difficult for Business Owners
Small Business Loans & Grants
Breakfast in a Whole New Way
Top Movies About Entrepreneurs

By Chris Brunner
Friday, March 10th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Ownership |

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
Thursday, March 9th, 2017 @ 12:09 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


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
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
Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 @ 12:03 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


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
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
Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 @ 12:02 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
Monday, March 6th, 2017 @ 12:19 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
Sunday, March 5th, 2017 @ 12:12 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


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
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
Saturday, March 4th, 2017 @ 12:02 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


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

By Chris Brunner
Friday, March 3rd, 2017 @ 12:04 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


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
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
Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 @ 12:01 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.

¹ EIA; BP Statistical Review of World Energy


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

Recommended Resources:

• Forbes.com – Forbes Energy News
• Evergreen Solar – National Council for Solar Growth
• Market Participant – A Balanced Energy Portfolio


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
A Newer Way of Avoiding High Energy Bills
Reducing Taxable Income with Retirement Funds
Small Business Loans & Grants
Alternative Minimum Tax
Internet Search Advertising: Google vs. Yahoo

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |