Small Business Tips

October 2017 Archive
Taking Time Off

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

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

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

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

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

Source:
MSNBC.com


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Ownership |

Starting a New Business

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

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

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


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, October 30th, 2017 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Startup |

More Tips for Expo Success

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

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

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

Source:
New Hampshire Business Review


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, October 29th, 2017 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Marketing |

Tips for Trade Show Success

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

Forward planning is the key to trade show success.

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

Source:
MoreBusiness.com


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By Chris Brunner
Saturday, October 28th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing |

Protect Your Wireless Networks

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

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

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

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

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


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, October 27th, 2017 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Technology |

You Cant Replace Face Time

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

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

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

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

Source:
BusinessWeek.com


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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, October 26th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking |

Telephone Etiquette Tips – Handling Client Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

Choosing a Business Name

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

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

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

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

[Read more…]

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

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

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

Recommended Reading:

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


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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership |

Seeking a Dream

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

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

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

Continue Reading: “Seeking a Dream”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, October 23rd, 2017 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Expanding Your Business Overseas: Why and Why Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

Getting the Most Out of E-Mail Marketing

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

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

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


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 21st, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Technology |

How to Fire an Employee

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading: “How to Fire an Employee”


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Revitalize Your Stagnant Business

By Chris Brunner
Friday, October 20th, 2017 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources |

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 |