Small Business Tips

October 2017 Archive
Revitalize Your Stagnant Business

When you first started your business, the excitement was raw and tangible. With every step forward everything in you wanted to jump for joy, though you contained yourself (most of the time). Your dream was becoming reality. Your business was seeing success. Life was just plain good.

Fast forward a few years. Same dream, same business, but with a different feel. You’re still making money and still a success, but the excitement is all but gone. So, what’s the deal?

When a business is in its first years, you are establishing a structure. The problem is, once that structure is established, everyone thinks that it shouldn’t change — to stick with what you know (because that’s the easiest way). It becomes a comfort zone and no one wants to depart from a comfortable location. Besides, very few people deal well with change.

Continue Reading: “Revitalize Your Stagnant Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, October 19th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Ownership |

Sign Spinners Turning Heads

I first saw them on the Ellen show this summer – her picnic in the park special. She used sign spinners to introduce each guest. And, frankly, I thought they were pretty cool.

Apparently, so do a lot of other people, as the sign spinning industry is growing at a rapid pace. Still not sure what a sign spinner is? Well, basically they are folks who carry signs around, shaped like arrows, advertising local businesses. But they don’t just wear the sign, sandwiched between two billboards hanging from their necks. Instead, they dance, spin, toss the signs… all to get the attention of passers-by (Still curious? You can see some in action on YouTube).

Continue Reading: “Sign Spinners Turning Heads”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing, Ventures |

Finding a Good Accountant

Ah, it’s that time of year again. Time to start worrying about getting your taxes filed. And if you own a business, taxes can be a really stressful burden. If you do your taxes yourself or have a friend/family member help, you may want to consider hiring a CPA. Having a CPA do your taxes can be much more relaxing and take some of the burden off your shoulders.

First, it may help to know what a CPA is (if you don’t already). It stands for “Certified Public Accountant,” though it may be more appropriate to call them Certified Professional Advisors, because their roles in aiding your business will often go beyond your accounting.

Continue Reading: “Finding a Good Accountant”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money, Operations, Taxes |

Broadening Your Market May Save Your Business

On November 5, 2007 the Writer’s Guild went on strike. This we all know. But prime time entertainment is not the only thing suffering from the strike. Many small businesses in the Hollywood area are beginning to go under, since they cater to the Hollywood industry, providing equipment and services to movie and television productions. And they’re having to think of other ways to make it.

History for Hire, a vintage rental business in North Hollywood that provides props for shoes like The Office, Heroes and Cold Case, has seen a dramatic drop in revenue. The owners truly saw the strike coming and started making preparations, by not replacing staff members who left, letting go of part-time positions, getting rid of overtime and cutting their personal salaries. But all of their short cuts haven’t been enough and the owners are afraid they won’t be able to keep the 22 year old business running if the strike continues much longer.

Continue Reading: “Broadening Your Market May Save Your Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, October 16th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

Business Instincts vs Data

As business owners, we face a constant battle when it comes to the decisions we make – should we go with our gut instinct or chose based on the facts? It’s an everyday part of keeping things running, and can sometimes cause a bit of stress if our instincts and the data don’t match up.

So which do you go with? Well, truthfully, either way you can risk failure or accomplish success. Your instincts are based upon experience, and you are more likely to feel comfortable doing something that has worked for you in the past. If, however, your instincts are telling you to go for something that has never crossed your mind before, it may be a hard step to take.

Continue Reading: “Business Instincts vs Data”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, October 15th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Motivation, Operations |

How to Issue a Press Release

A press release is a relatively inexpensive way (typically free, or close to it, depending on what you do with it) to get the word out about your business. But it is a process that many small business owners are not familiar with.

First, find a newsworthy angle for your press release that, in a round-about way, is related to the product/services you provide. If you’re having a hard time coming up with a topic, check your company’s online forum posts (or set one up if you don’t have one), which will typically lend some good ideas.

Your topic needs to be something that the public would be interested in reading about irrespective of your business’ involvement. Editors and reports are not at all interested in helping your business obtain new clients and increase sales, so don’t try and sell anything. They are simply interested in providing news to the public. If your press release doesn’t provide a newsworthy angle, they won’t release it – end of story.

Continue Reading: “How to Issue a Press Release”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 14th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Marketing, Networking |

Good Listening Skills Mean Success

As the holidays come to a close, I’ve been spending my weekends around the house recooping from all the travel and excitement (which can be very wearing on a pregnant woman, eight months along). Yesterday I spent the majority of the evening doing a little sewing and watching television.

What I ended up watching was a marathon on TLC of a show called Say Yes to the Dress about Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. Basically, cameras follow sales clerks around as they try and sell that perfect dress to soon-to-be brides. A chic-show to be sure, but there was something in particular that caught my attention.

There is one “bridal consultant,” Claudia, who just can’t seem to meet her sales quota. At the time the shows in the marathon aired, she had been working for Kleinfelds over a span of 3-8 months. She just wasn’t getting it, and, despite many, many attempts by the owner and manager to work with her and help her be successful, Claudia continually asserted that there was nothing wrong with her or her sales style and she just kept happening to get clients who weren’t going to buy.

I found myself continually frustrated with Claudia because she just refused to see how she was harming the business. First and foremost, the owner and managers pointed out to her that she wasn’t taking the time to listen to the needs and desires of the client. Claudia insisted that she was a great listener and they just didn’t see the discussions she had with the brides. The viewer, however, knew better, and the owner and managers were right. Claudia continued to assert her opinions about certain dresses and why they would work for the bride, even when the bride disagreed.

I wanted to take the opportunity to make a couple of points from my critique of Claudia’s sales process that any business owner/employee should take into consideration:

Continue Reading: “Good Listening Skills Mean Success”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, October 13th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Customer Service, Operations |

Ways to Save on Technology in 2008

As each new year approaches, we all try and think of ways to make things for our business work more smoothly. And we definitely want to cut corners where we can and save some money. Here are some ideas to help to save some dough when it comes to your business’ technology needs:

Speed Things Up
Have your network bandwidth increased to speed up the overall processing time of your computers. The faster things move on your computer system, the quicker tasks get done. This means more time available for other tasks and, essentially, saving money because employees are getting more done for the same amount.

Consider Remote Access
If you have employees who are on the road a lot (including yourself), or even those who may be workaholics and would put in more time in their off hours if the had the option, then you may want to consider making your system remotely accessible. You will need to have a server that can provide for access by multiple users, or simply set up password-secure access to your service. Provide your employees with a laptop, a wireless card and an internet browser and they will be able to access your system and do extra work wherever a Wi-Fi connection is available. While it’s an investment, it will save you money in the long run because, again, more work will get done in a shorter amount of time.

Continue Reading: “Ways to Save on Technology in 2008″


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, October 12th, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Money, Technology |

Enduring in a Crisis

Ernest Shackleton, an explorer in the early 20th century, knew how to endure. His most famous expedition, known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition or the Endurance Expedition, proved that fact. Shackleton set out from London on August 1, 1914 with 27 crew members on the ship Endurance, in an attempt to cross Antarctica, Atlantic to Pacific, by way of the South Pole. However, the pack ice began to close in on Endurance, making in motionless in February and finally sinking it on November 21, 1915.

What happened in the months that followed showed great resolve from Shackleton in leading his crew. They had managed to salvage three small boats, cameras and meager provisions before the ship went down. The crew then trudged their way across the uneven pack ice terrain. After attempts at reaching various locations, Shackleton settled on Elephant Island, which they reached in March of 1916. Shackleton was determined to get his entire crew home safely and, despite the treacherous seas that awaited him, he and six other crew members took a 23 foot boat back to England. On August 30, 1916 they returned to Elephant Island with a ship and rescued the entire crew. Not one member was lost.

Shackleton’s ship was appropriately named, not because the ship endured, but because the crew never gave up. They showed great resolve in surviving through below freezing temperatures for nearly two years, with little provisions and, frankly, little hope. Shackleton was an especially strong leader and, without his help, the crew probably never would have had the resolve to survive. He knew how to endure in a crisis.

While something you may face with your business won’t be nearly as disastrous as the fate of Endurance, you can still come out on top just like Shackleton and his crew. When you face any sort of crisis, keep these elements in mind:

Continue Reading: “Enduring in a Crisis”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Motivation |

The Importance of Website Accessibility

>Did you know that the option to make your website accessible to the blind, dyslexic or deaf was even a possibility? I hadn’t even thought of it. But it appears that, eventually, we will all be required to accommodate the handicapped. I have no problem with this, as I find it totally necessary, but the question is, how?

Currently there is a software available coined a “screen reader,” which, is purchased by the PC user and put on their computer and, when the code on the website is correct, the program reads the text out loud to the user, using braille-enabled keyboard commands rather than a mouse.

That is one option that will probably be phased out, however, due to the current changes and technological upgrades of latest websites. Those that provide videos and visual/auditory content should be providing closed-captioning for hard-of-hearing users, but there isn’t much out there that can keep up with the current video technology. And what about those who have a hard time manipulating a keyboard or mouse? Currently, the options are rather limited.

Continue Reading: “The Importance of Website Accessibility”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Customer Service, Technology |

Easy Return Policy Means Return Customers

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were a big hit this year. As usual, sales were up, despite the fact that many businesses feared that higher gas prices and the like would keep shoppers from spending as much money this year.

The unfortunate aspect of the Christmas season, for retailers anyway, are the returns. And returns are inevitable. You can’t please everyone, and gift giving is no exception. But, as an online retailer, if you want customers to keep coming back to you, then you need to provide an easy and clear-cut return policy.

According to a survey conducted by return processor Newgistics, Inc., at least nine out of 10 consumers cited a convenient return policy as important when shopping with a new or unknown online retailer. And 69% of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t use that online retailer again if the return policy is a pain or unclear.

So, what can you do to provide your customers with an hassle-free return process? Here are some tips to get you started:

Continue Reading: “Easy Return Policy Means Return Customers”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, October 9th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Customer Service, Operations |

Acknowledging Those Who Make a Difference

We all long for someone to tell us that we’re doing a good job… a pat on the back, an encouraging word, recognition for our efforts. And what we crave is more than the simple “thank you” or “good job.” We want to hear specifics – we desire to have our actions actually acknowledged – something heartfelt and authentic, without any ulterior motives behind it. An acknowledgment puts the spotlight on someone else’s talent, thoughtfulness, hard work, etc. You will energize and inspire that individual to work harder and keep doing what they do well.

But, the truth of the matter is, acknowledgments are a rarity, especially in the workplace, which is unfortunate. Most people spend the majority of their lives working – it takes up more time than anything else we do. Sleeping may come close for the ratio of time in a 24 hour day, but how many of us actually get those blessed eight hours of sleep anyway. For something that we spend most of our time doing (our job), you would think that the acknowledgments for a job-well-done would be plentiful. But they, quite often, are not.

Continue Reading: “Acknowledging Those Who Make a Difference”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, October 8th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Human Resources, Motivation |

Immigration Laws Proving Difficult for Business Owners

It’s not news that the U.S. is cracking down on illegal immigrants, though there is constant debate on how that should actually be done. It’s a focal issue among presidential candidates, and many people have a set opinion as to how this matter should be dealt with.

And it leaves very few people unaffected, especially business owners. In fact, the newest regulations have caused some new confusion. First, in August the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the implementation of a new “no-match” letter program, which would be a formal letter informing an employer that the social security number provided for an employee does not match that employee’s name. In October, the Northern District Court of California put this new program on hold, but in November the court suspended the injunction, giving DHS until March of 2008 to rework the program.

Continue Reading: “Immigration Laws Proving Difficult for Business Owners”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 7th, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Business Law |

How to Improve Your Credit Score

We all know the importance of a good credit score. We know that, the higher our number on that scale from 340-800, the better chances we have of obtaining loans, buying a home or new car, or getting our business off and running.

While lenders may consider anyone for a loan/mortgage, individuals with credit scores of 700 or better are typically offered better interest rates and financing options. If your credit score is low, there are ways to improve it, but doing so first requires that you better understand how your credit score is calculated.

Your credit score is more or less calculated by the data of your credit history being punched into a program and that program coming up with a number. This is why your credit score may vary a bit between each of the three credit bureaus, since they don’t all use the same calculation program. While exact values are undetermined, the calculation of your credit score is broken down into these approximate values:

Continue Reading: “How to Improve Your Credit Score”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, October 6th, 2017 @ 12:10 AM CDT

Money |

Obtaining a Business Loan – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 8 of 8

OBTAINING A BUSINESS LOAN
Okay, so your Business Plan has been edited, revised, perfected and now you’ve got your final packet ready to go. You’re ready to march into the world and present your business to lenders in hopes of obtaining funds to get your business moving.

But not so fast.

Before you walk through the doors of any bank, you need to know what else they will be looking for outside of your Business Plan in order to approve a loan.

Credit History
What potential lenders will look at most are credit records for both the individual owners of the business (the credit report associated with your social security number) and the business itself (the credit report associated with the business’ EIN or tax identification number). So, before you take your fund request to a bank, request a copy of your credit report from all three agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Examine each report for errors and resolve all discrepancies before applying for a business loan.

Continue Reading: “Obtaining a Business Loan – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 8 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, October 5th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money, Operations |

Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8

COMMON BUSINESS PLAN MISTAKES
Even with all of the information provided in the first six parts of this post series, there are still mistakes to be made on a Business Plan. No one is perfect and your Business Plan won’t turn out perfect on the first draft either (and probably not the second or third). However, there are some common mistakes to keep in mind when writing and reviewing your Business Plan that will at least aid in attaining perfection.

Failure to be Clear and Concise
The most common mistake when preparing any document is a failure to convey what you want to the reader. There are two main elements that can contribute to this error.

Continue Reading: “Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The executive summary is the most important part of your Business Plan and, in fact, should be the first section. However, you can’t do the executive summary until you are finished with all the other sections, which is why I saved it for last.

The executive summary is exactly as it name implies — it is a summary of your entire business plan. You also need to include a brief history of your company. The entire executive summary should not be longer than four pages. Consider using a bullet system to highlight information and make a smoother read. You want to provide information, but you don’t want to bore potential investors/lenders from the start. This is what will either grab their attention or give them the urge to find a wastepaper basket.

Continue Reading: “Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8

Welcome to the second half of my eight part post series on creating an effective Business Plan. I’m sure you enjoyed the break over the weekend, but are anxious to obtain the rest of the information you need. So let’s get started.

THE FUNDING REQUEST
The whole point of your Business Plan is to request money from investors and/or obtain a business loan through a bank. So, what would the Business Plan be without specifics on what funds your business needs? It’s one thing to request a dollar amount out loud, it’s another to specify exactly why you need that money and how it will be used. We’re certainly not talking about a few dollars here, so those that provide the funds to you want all the details they can get before making such a commitment.

Continue Reading: “Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8″


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Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, October 2nd, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8

MARKETING & SALES MANAGEMENT
Without marketing your business and your product/service, customers have no way of knowing that you’re out there. While the information regarding the organization of your business is important to investors, knowing your marketing plans is equally as important, since the marketing you do will generate revenue.

Marketing Strategy
You need to define your marketing strategy. Granted, your marketing strategy will often change, as you evaluate its effectiveness and changes in your business require changes in your advertising. But you do need to have a basic strategy in mind, which includes the following elements:

1. Market Penetration
In order to obtain customers, you have to make yourself known in the market. While you need advertising to do this, you also need to have a means. In other words, you need to continually develop new products and innovations to keep the customers interested. Market penetration requires using new products in existing markets and new markets using existing products. Explain in your business plan how you intend to penetrate the market.

Continue Reading: “Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, October 1st, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |