Small Business Tips

May 2018 Archive
Is Tort Reform Necessary to Protect Small Business?

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

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

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


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When to Consider Bankruptcy as an Option
Being Sued by Big Business Competition
Pulling Your Teen Out of the Financial Hole
Teaching Your Child About Money
Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation

By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, May 31st, 2018 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Business Law |

Showing Compassion

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

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

Continue Reading: “Showing Compassion”


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Leaders Can’t Do It Alone
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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, May 30th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Motivation |

Businesses Embrace the Harry Potter Craze

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

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

Continue Reading: “Businesses Embrace the Harry Potter Craze”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 29th, 2018 @ 12:13 AM CDT

Human Resources, Operations |

Enhance Your Image Through Your Words

Stress – it can get the best of us. Especially when there are stacks of papers and files on our desk that never seem to get smaller. Unfortunately, too many of us, from the low man on the totem pole to the big-wig on top, openly profess our frustrations to anyone that crosses our path.

As professionals, we must keep in mind that what we say effects how people view us – both our capabilities and weaknesses. What follows are some phrases that definitely don’t enhance your image, and what would be a better approach to the same situation, regardless of the frustration brewing within.

Continue Reading: “Enhance Your Image Through Your Words”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, May 28th, 2018 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Motivation, Ownership |

Standing on the Job

Think hotel lobby, bars and fast food ordering counters. Or even counter-top dining tables (I have one myself, which comes in very handy when you have a dog that stands over three feet tall on all fours). So how about a counter-top desk in your office that you can stand at?

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense has one. And so does business owner Thomas Gimbel out of Chicago. And, unlike a counter-top table that simply has taller chairs, Gimbel (and Rumsfeld) stand at their desks. Gimbel initially got the idea when his 6 foot 6 inch frame caused him back problems no matter what chair he tried. He found relief only when he stood. So why not work that way all the time?

Continue Reading: “Standing on the Job”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 27th, 2018 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Operations, Ventures |

Lease or Rental Agreement… That is the Question

So, you’ve made some investments in rental property? A very popular business venture these days, as you can never go wrong with investing in real estate (well, almost never). As you begin the process of finding tenants, one question that you must address is whether to use a Lease or a Rental Agreement for your property.

First, you must determine what type of market the property will appeal to. If it’s a residential home, such as a single family house, duplex or apartment complex, then your market will likely be those that are looking for a place to settle down for a while and stay put. For this type of property you would want to offer a Lease.

However, if your property is in the heart of the business district, close to a college campus, near a military base, etc., then a Rental Agreement may be the best option for you. Most especially if you are having a hard time finding someone to rent the property in the first place.

Let’s examine what each agreement consists of so you have a better idea of what would work best for you:

Continue Reading: “Lease or Rental Agreement… That is the Question”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 26th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership, Ventures |

For Vision Impaired Diners: Menus that Talk

There have been many times when out dining with my in-laws, that one or both of them have forgotten their reading glasses and have to strain to read the menu. When that happened to Susan Perry, while dining with her blind niece, she realized there were few options and got a great idea. What if the menu talked?

Your first thought may be that there are Braille menus for the blind, but less than ten percent of blind individuals can read Braille. That fact is what truly motivated Susan Perry to pursue her idea. And, after three months challenges and an investment of $300,000 of her own money (including the patent, legal fees and a lot of trial and error), the first prototype of “Menus that Talk” was born.

Continue Reading: “For Vision Impaired Diners: Menus that Talk”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 25th, 2018 @ 12:14 AM CDT

Technology, Ventures |

Leading by Example in a World of Copy Cats

When you are in a leadership position, what is the one principle that is the root of everything you do across the board? Lead by example. Why is that? Because we live in a world of copy cats and people do what they see their leaders do.

For example, say the CEO of a company is using his petty cash account for personal expenses (such as a 2008 Mercedes), rather than business expenses. Now Bob in sales knows what the CEO is up to. And it’s likely that Bob won’t report the events. Instead, he’ll follow in his CEO’s footsteps and start requesting reimbursements for the dinner he had out last week. No one has to know it was just him, the wife and the kids. He can say it was a business dinner with potential clients. Afterall, if the CEO gets away with it, so should Bob.

Continue Reading: “Leading by Example in a World of Copy Cats”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, May 24th, 2018 @ 12:11 AM CDT

Human Resources, Motivation |

The Lawsuit Risks of Having a Website

We all know that with any business venture there is risk involved – sometimes minor, often substantial. Being sued is a big risk, especially as your company grows and your network of clientele and other businesses expands.

Especially if you have a website.

Yes, you read that right. In this lawsuit-happy world of ours, all it takes is having a website, or allowing employees to use the internet at work, to drag you and your business into the courtroom. Everything from whines about content to product trademark and patent issues – all at the click of a mouse. Don’t get me wrong, having a website is synonymous with being successful with your business. It’s practically necessary. But you should be aware of the risk it involves.

Here are some examples of what can get you and your business into trouble when it comes to the internet:

Continue Reading: “The Lawsuit Risks of Having a Website”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Technology |

Startup Myths Keep Entrepreneurs Motivated

We’ve all heard the stories. Hewlett Packard and Apple were started in someone’s garage. YouTube and Goggle were the children of brilliant, spontaneous ideas, etc., etc., etc. We love to hear that these entrepreneurs simply had an idea, ran with it, and became multi-millionaires. Because that’s what we want to happen to the businesses we’re putting our blood, sweat and tears into.

But the truth of the matter is, they’re simply stories. Fairytales of success, if you will. The reality is, most entrepreneurs get their initial idea for a bright innovation from a previous job they may have had. In fact, a study of VC-backed companies showed that 91% of them were related to the founders’ previous employment.

Continue Reading: “Startup Myths Keep Entrepreneurs Motivated”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Flexibility is What Working Parents Desire

Balancing work and family life can be quite the challenge. Add a social life in the mix and you’ve got yourself one overly busy schedule to deal with most days.

Does that busy schedule affect working moms or working dads more? A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Adecco USA may shed some light on that. The survey polled 223 employed men and 272 employed women who have at least one child.

Some of the results are as follows:

Continue Reading: “Flexibility is What Working Parents Desire”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, May 21st, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources |

Being Sued by Big Business Competition

Tom Szaky has a new business – TerraCycle provides organic plant food, made from worm feces, and just recently secured its major financial backer. But just about that time, Szaky received a 173 page lawsuit. The Plaintiff: Scotts Miracle-Gro. Their accusations: that TerraCycle falsely claims that its product “outgrows the leading synthetic fertilizer,” and trade dress issues (in other words, TerraCycle’s packaging too closely resembles Miracle-Gro’s).

How do you, as a small business owner, deal with the squeeze from the big business corporate competition. Well, it’s foremost important to keep in mind that, if you make claims against those competitors, like your product can outgrow their’s, you probably need to make sure you can back up that claim.

Continue Reading: “Being Sued by Big Business Competition”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 20th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Business Law, Money |

Scheduling Time to Relax

Seems a bit like an oxymoron doesn’t it… “scheduling time to relax?” But in this hectic world full of non-stop busy schedules for both family and business, scheduling time to relax is the only way we’ll ever get around to actually relaxing.

Relaxing is a crucial part to keeping our positive attitude and joy in life (not to mention our sanity). Here are some easy things to implement into your life in order to find some time to take a breather:

Continue Reading: “Scheduling Time to Relax”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 19th, 2018 @ 12:11 AM CDT

Ownership |

When You Feel Like Quitting…

Owning your own business can be quite stressful and, sometimes simply overwhelming. We can often get caught up in those emotions and let them drag us down. Our thoughts turn to calling it quits – giving up all together on the dream we once had because it has just become too much.

But maybe, before turning those thoughts into action, it would be better to try and change our perspective a bit. Here are few things to check yourself on before throwing in the towel:

Continue Reading: “When You Feel Like Quitting…”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 18th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Motivation, Ownership |

Consider This When Hiring an Intern

Today is the first official day of summer (don’t we all wish we still had a summer vacation). And, with classes temporarily out of session, college students are looking for summer internships. For them, it is an opportunity to learn more about the business they are hoping to get into after graduation, without a long-term commitment.

For you, it is a chance to test things out and see if you would be willing to hire this student for a full-time, long-term position when he graduates. You also get the opportunity to pass on what you know about “the business” and provide a hands on education that a college course won’t necessarily provide. Not to mention the fact that hiring an intern has the added perk of an extra set of hands around the office at no or very little cost to you.

Before you hire an intern, however, keep the following in mind:

Continue Reading: “Consider This When Hiring an Intern”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, May 17th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Human Resources, Operations |

Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies

Greece is a country known for being entrepreneurial. And while it may not be exactly the same as the U.S., a study done there has found some interesting results that may very well apply to our own nation.

This study, titled Entrepreneurship Among Graduates: Reality and Prospects in Tertiary Education, examined how education affected graduates who went into business on their own. 249 graduates, from two different years, who had started their own businesses since graduation were questioned.

Two important percentages stand out from the results of the study:

• 44% report a low correlation or none at all between their college degree and the business they started.

• 51% report that they use little to none of what they learned in college in their business practices.

Continue Reading: “Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

The Importance of Being Assertive

Point blank: if you’re an entrepreneur, or plan on becoming one, you have to be assertive. Now, please know that I don’t mean aggressive, which is completely different. I mean knowing what you want and what your limitations are and being able to express that in a confident and respective manner.

When you start a business, many people will ask you for favors. Your friends and family may sometimes expect freebies of the product/service you provide. Business partners may request you to take on one of his/her tasks because their “to do list” is just too full. Some customers may expect you to practically hand-deliver the product they order to their door yourself.

Continue Reading: “The Importance of Being Assertive”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 15th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ownership, Startup |

Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service

Customer service is the one aspect of business that can separate the great ones from the not-so-great ones. Products, services and even prices will usually be in the same ball park. Customer service is where you can really make a difference.

This is especially true when small businesses try and rise above their big business competitors. Corporate business, even though they typically have a whole department dedicated to customer service, have a tendency to make the client feel ignored and unimportant because the company “deals with so many people, something is always bound to go wrong.”

Continue Reading: “Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, May 14th, 2018 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Customer Service |

How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Relations

In last week’s post Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service, one of the tips listed touched on department divisions, which I would like to take the opportunity to elaborate on a bit.

When I say department divisions, I am specifically referring to the common element of many businesses, to have a department (or individual) assigned to each task related to the business, such as marketing/sales, accounting, legal, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to indicate that having departments in your company is a bad thing. In fact, in and of itself, it is not. What can lead to poor customer service is your employees’ attitudes about their specific department.

Continue Reading: “How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Relations”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 13th, 2018 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Customer Service, Operations |

Tips for Gaining and Impressing Potential Investors

It’s not often that a new business can really get itself off the ground without investors to help push it along. But, of course, getting investors to write you a check isn’t all that easy. You obviously believe in the business you want to start because it’s your brain child – a part of you. But convincing others to believe as whole-heartedly as you do can be a rough task.

Here are some tips for getting potential investors to believe in you and the future of your epiphany:

Continue Reading: “Tips for Gaining and Impressing Potential Investors”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 12th, 2018 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Money, Networking, Startup |

Funeral Homes Renovate Look and Services

The times are ever changing, and many things just aren’t the same as they used to be. Funerals are no exception (though you won’t hear and complaints about that from me). More and more families are planning celebrations of their loved one’s life after they pass on, rather than somberly mourning the loss.

Between that and the fact that the national cremation rates continue to rise (with an expectation of 50% by 2025), resulting in drops in the revenue that funeral homes bring in, funeral home owners are taking the hint and making some changes.

Continue Reading: “Funeral Homes Renovate Look and Services”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 11th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Family Business, Ventures |

How the Bee Colony Collapse May Affect Your Business

Many people don’t realize that the honey bee population is a vital part of the farming industry in our nation. The business of raising bees is worth about $15 billion in the U.S. Worldwide, honey bees are also responsible for pollinating more than 90 types of fruits and vegetables, especially almonds, apples and blueberries.

But what has become known as the Colony Collapse Disorder is threatening to change the livelihood of some businesses. If colony losses are significant it won’t only effect the bee keepers income. Farmers who use bees to pollinate their crops will either face substantial costs to produce crops or a significant drop in production. Either way, consumers may see a raise in prices of crops in order for farmers to break even.

Continue Reading: “How the Bee Colony Collapse May Affect Your Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, May 10th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money, Operations |

Finding the Right Outsider Board Member

If your business is big enough for a board of directors, then I highly recommend you have at least one board member who is an outsider. The benefit is having someone with an unbiased opinion available to give a better perspective on issues at hand. He/she can also help to mediate when the rest of the board, who are probably directly involved in the company, can’t reach a decision.

When interviewing prospects for the outsider position on the board, be sure to address the following:

Continue Reading: “Finding the Right Outsider Board Member”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations |

Outsource Your Chores and Errands

There just aren’t enough hours in the day, at least for most, to get everything accomplished we would like to. Our priorities tend to focus on the businesses we own, as well as our family and social lives, and we tend to never get around to picking up the dry cleaning or mowing the lawn.

Well, some fellow entrepreneurs recognized this need in their own lives, decided to do something about and DoMyStuff.com was born. The basic premise is that buyers (a.k.a. busy people) post a task they need done, such as mowing the lawn, and assistants (local individuals or businesses willing to do the work) bid on the task. The buyer picks the best bid, which aren’t just about how much the assistant would charge, but how they would get the job done.

Continue Reading: “Outsource Your Chores and Errands”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Ownership, Ventures |

Using Your Business to Serve the Community

There are a large number of possiblities when it comes to getting involved in your community. In fact, there are a number of ways your business can get involved, such as donating some of your profits to charity or donating the product/service you provide to those in need. But have you ever considered actually using your business itself to serve the community?

Continue Reading: “Using Your Business to Serve the Community”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, May 7th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Human Resources, Ventures |

What Makes Gasoline So Expensive These Days?

On the surface this may not seem like a topic related to small business, but it most certainly is. The price of gas affects all of us in tremendous ways. And if you travel for the sake of your business, it’s really hitting the wallet hard.

Last summer, when gas prices averaged $3.00 a gallon, most of us assumed that would be the worst of it. Boy, were we wrong. With gas prices currently averaging $3.20 a gallon (though it’s closer to $4 on the west coast), the anticipation of what this year’s summer will bring is a black cloud looming over our heads.

So, what’s the deal? Why can’t we keep something affordable that nearly every person in the nation is so dependent on? That right there is the problem… our dependency on gasoline for our every day lives. Now, I’m not trying to go “green” here, but the concept of supply and demand is not new to the business world. As the demand for a product increases, and the supply decreases, then the price continues to climb.

Continue Reading: “What Makes Gasoline So Expensive These Days?”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 6th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money, Operations |

Facing Change as an Entrepreneur

Change – it’s an obvious part of life. Usually, in our everyday hustle and bustle, it comes in small kinks here and there. But when you own a business, changes come in waves on a regular basis. And how you come through change, for better or worse, all depends on how you deal with it.

Here are some tips for dealing with the everyday changes of being an entrepreneur:

Continue Reading: “Facing Change as an Entrepreneur”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 5th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

Buddy Networking: A Clever Way to Expand Your Network

Ever heard of “buddy networking?” Basically, it is buddying-up with another business that complements your own and working together to expand both of your networks. Some examples of great buddy businesses would be: a maid service and a lawn service; a photographer and a wedding coordinator; or an accountant and an attorney.

First, determine all of the types of businesses in your area that would complement your own by attracting your ideal clientele. Then, prioritize those businesses and obtain contact information for the manager or owner. Finally, arrange a meeting (in person is best) with the owner to discuss how your businesses could benefit each other. Be sure to take along information about your business and ask for further information on theirs. Three buddy businesses is a nice number to have on your side.

Continue Reading: “Buddy Networking: A Clever Way to Expand Your Network”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 4th, 2018 @ 12:12 AM CDT

Networking |

The Cheapest Gas Prices in the Nation

New Jersey requires all of its gas stations to be full service (as does Oregon) and is the only state in the country where gas prices still average under $3 a gallon. So how in the world is a full service gas station keeping its gas prices lower than everyone else?

According to Doug MacIntyre, senior oil and gasoline analyst with the EIA, cost has little to do with it – it’s all about local supply and demand conditions.

And it doesn’t hurt that New Jersey has four in-state oil refineries that have yet to have any problems like those in the Midwest, which have caused Chicago’s gas prices to average more than San Francisco’s, which is known for some of the highest prices in the nation. Another beneficial factor is that New Jersey is the main port for gasoline imports from Europe.

Continue Reading: “The Cheapest Gas Prices in the Nation”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Ventures |

Common Advertising Mistakes

Advertising is the key component to bringing in clientele. Though word-of-mouth is the most effective, it won’t happen until you get those first few people in the doors, and to do that you must advertise. There are a lot of great ways to market your business to the public, but there are definitely some tactics you should avoid if you want to see the most success.

When brainstorming your advertising campaign, be mindful of the following common advertising mistakes:

Continue Reading: “Common Advertising Mistakes”


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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing |

Retirement for the Sole-Proprietor

When you go solo and start your own small business, it can often be hard to save for retirement. Yes, there are options like Roth IRAs, but as your business grows, the maximum contribution of $5,000 doesn’t always seem to be the best option.

Additionally, savings accounts have a meager return on the precious funds you’ve worked so hard to earn. Wouldn’t something like a 401(k) plan that many corporate employees get to take advantage of be nice?

Well, cheer up because the option is out there. In fact, it has been since 2001, but only now are sole proprietors becoming more aware of it’s benefits as the kinks have been ironed out. It’s called a “solo 401(k)” (a/k/a “solo k,” a/k/a “uni-k“). This retirement option is strictly limited to sole proprietors without employees.

Continue Reading: “Retirement for the Sole-Proprietor”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Money, Ownership |