Small Business Tips

August 2018 Archive
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
Friday, August 17th, 2018 @ 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
Thursday, August 16th, 2018 @ 12:05 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
Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 @ 12:03 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
Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 @ 12:05 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
Monday, August 13th, 2018 @ 12:02 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
Sunday, August 12th, 2018 @ 12:14 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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Obtaining a Business Loan – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 8 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, August 11th, 2018 @ 12:02 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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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, August 10th, 2018 @ 12:04 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
Thursday, August 9th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Define Organizational Structure & Management – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 3 of 8

THE COMPANY DESCRIPTION
The next section of your Business Plan should contain a description of your company. Be sure to cover the following topics:

• Why you started the business.
• The nature of your business — what needs your business provides solutions for and how.
• What will make your business successful.
• The advantages your business has over the competition.

ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT
Following the Company Description is the Organization and Management section. You must show potential investors and banks that you are organized and ready to do business. If they don’t see that, they won’t invest.

Continue Reading: “Define Organizational Structure & Management – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 3 of 8”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Startup |

Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8

MARKET ANALYSIS

The Market Analysis portion of your business plan is a means for showing your knowledge of the industry your business is involved in. This is where your market research will come into play. And you’re going to have to do a lot of work for this portion.

Start by studying, very thoroughly, your industry market and gathering as much information as possible. Additionally, you will need to conduct market tests of your product/service and compile that information. While the data and information you collect is crucial, this portion of your business plan will only cover the highlights and conclusions of all of your diligent work. The bulk of the information, as we will later see, will be contained within the Appendix section of your business plan.

Continue Reading: “Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8

OVERVIEW

If you’ve started a business or are thinking about doing so, then you’ve probably heard that you need a business plan. If you in any way hope to have investors support your company growth or to obtain a business loan, you have to have a business plan. You won’t even be considered without one. It is more or less the sales pitch for your business.

A strong business plan consists of ten essential sections:

1. Market Analysis
2. Company Description
3. Organization & Management
4. Marketing & Sales Management
5. Service or Product Line
6. Funding Requests
7. Financial Information
8. Executive Summary
9. Appendix
10. Table of Contents

Over the next two weeks of posts I’m going to cover how to create an appropriate business plan, elaborating on each of these sections. Yes, it will take two weeks. There is a lot of information to cover and summarizing it into a few posts will not be helpful enough for you to put together effective business plan that will win investors and banks over.

Continue Reading: “Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8”


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

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, August 6th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Connections Trump Contacts

We’ve all had them – those annoying telemarketing calls right in the middle of dinner and spending some much needed time with our families. Even with no-call-list registration, a call sneaks through the cracks occasionally. We get frustrated and often, the poor individual on the other end gets an ear full.

But have you ever taken the opportunity to put yourself in that telemarketer’s shoes? As a business owner, you should, since sales is an important part of every business. I sure do because I actually had a telemarketing job at one point. Albeit, it was only for four months, but that’s because it was horrible. I didn’t make a sale the entire time I was there. Call after call made for nothing. In a telemarketing job the focus is quantity – the more calls you make, the more likely you are to get a sale. That simply wasn’t the case for me – it isn’t for most. Just look at the turnover rate for telemarketing businesses and you’ll see the effects.

And why is that? Because the people I called were simply contacts – a name and phone number filled out on a piece of paper (most likely a drawing for some type of prize) for individuals who didn’t even know what they were signing up for. The reason cold call and door-to-door sales people fail more than they succeed at a sale is because they are making contacts, not connections, with potential clientele.

Continue Reading: “Connections Trump Contacts”


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, August 5th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Networking, Operations |

New Innovations for Deterring Software Piracy

>We’ve all faced the temptation to burn a copy of someone’s Beatles album or Microsoft Office program. Heck, when programs like Napster first emerged and provided free mp3 downloads, everyone was taking advantages and burning CDs for pennies on the dollar.

But, in recent years, industries like the Business Software Alliance have attempted to crack down on piracy. The anti-piracy ad that accompanies all rental DVDs and movie theater trailers has now become common place. And, in fact, piracy is one of the top issues involved in the Hollywood writers strike. Unfortunately, the attempts thus far have had little effect on piracy rates, which, according to BSA, have stopped falling.

Continue Reading: “New Innovations for Deterring Software Piracy”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, August 4th, 2018 @ 12:17 AM CDT

Technology |

Remembering Your Customers

Working on that Christmas Card list? Well, don’t stop at just friends and family. Be sure that you get some cards to send on behalf of your business to your customers. Yes, it may be a bit of added expense, but it’s well worth giving clients the reminder that you’re still available to provide them with quality products and services.

Before you do anything else, figure out how much you have available in your budget to send cards and gifts to clients. Just like with your personal Christmas shopping, it’s important to establish a budget and keep yourself on track.

Continue Reading: “Remembering Your Customers”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, August 3rd, 2018 @ 12:08 AM CDT

Customer Service, Marketing |

The Beneficial Chaos of Black Friday

Ah, the holiday season. Were you crazy enough to go out into the world and shop at the crack of dawn this past Friday? I did so for the first time. I wouldn’t exactly call it a joyful experience, but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Okay, it was close.

I already had in mind that I wasn’t going to spend the entire day pursuing every store in town for great bargains. After all, I’m seven months pregnant right now, and didn’t think that would be the best idea for me, especially by myself. So, I compared ads and found one location were I could get multiple items at a great price. Most of the items I bought were for my photography business, actually.

Continue Reading: “The Beneficial Chaos of Black Friday”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Operations |

Knowing Your Customers

There have been many occasions when I have discussed knowing who the target market for your product/service should be, what they’re looking for, etc. But the research and data shouldn’t stop at a marketing demographic. You need to get to know your customers individually as well.

A great way to do that is to develop a customer profile for each of your devote customers. You may be asking how you could get information on your customer without seeming nosy to them. Fortunately, most people are prone to talk to anyone that may listen, so it can really be easier than you might expect.

Continue Reading: “Knowing Your Customers”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, August 1st, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Customer Service, Marketing |