Small Business Tips

November 2018 Archive
Personal Savings in Decline

Image Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

This is a little off the topic of small business but I think it affects each and every one of us.

An interesting discussion is taking place over at Vox Baby about personal savings.

According to the GDP Report, consumer confidence in the economy is up, yet personal savings is down.

In fact, the U.S. Personal Savings Rate has not been positive for the U.S. since March of 2005.

Some argue that this has to do with baby boomers funding higher education for their children.

Others suggest looking at income quintiles. “The topmost quintile is very, very confident that their income will stay high come what may. So why save?”

The personal savings rate does not include capital gains on investments as a method of saving.

William Gale, a tax specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., says the situation isn’t as bad as it seems and it’s a mistake to look at the personal savings rate and think it correlates with wealth accumulation.

“For wealth accumulation you need capital gains. … it is [important] to look at the right measurement. The personal savings rate is good as a national income accounting measure.”


“I wonder how it can be that with the Baby Boomer generation in the high-income and presumably high-saving part of its economic life cycle, we can possibly have negative saving rates for the population as a whole, if we are making decisions with any attention to the amount of consumption … in the future.”

Vox BabyThe End of Personal Saving?


Despite a favorable outlook, there are at least three widely acknowledged areas of near-term concern that could pose risks to the economy going forward: a spike in energy prices, a decline in home prices, and a retrenchment in consumer spending arising from record consumer indebtedness.

The public’s increase in debt in 2005 was far greater than its increase in after-tax income.

FDIC.govScenarios for the Next U.S. Recession


… research suggests that a group that includes approximately 10 percent of U.S. households may be at heightened risk of credit problems …

Not only do many borrowers in this group have pre-existing credit problems, they may also be more vulnerable than other groups to rising interest rates because of their reliance on interest-only and payment-option mortgages.

Gary North – The Next Recession


More Discussion and Information:

The Glittering Eye – Why is the savings rate so low?
Investment U – U.S. Personal Savings Rate
Bankrate.com – Savings in America: Retirement picture not as bad as it looks


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

By Chris Brunner
Friday, November 16th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Business Email Etiquette

5 quick and easy email tips for entrepreneurs:

Looks matter
Formatting your emails in a professional manner will score brownie points with your clients.

Run a business, not an acquaintanceship
Respond to email requests promptly. I typically respond to emails within 2-3 hours of receipt.

Emotions have no place in business
Avoid using emotionally based words. Business is business and feelings aren’t of the essence.

Emoticons were created for a reason
Write clearly and to the point. The reader should immediately pick up on your tone.

Explanations go a long way
Your clients will be more attentive to buy if you fully explain the answers to their questions.

Recommended Reading:
Business Email Etiquette: Maintaining a Professional Image
Business Email Etquette Basics
Five Email Etiquette Tips for Better Communication


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
How to Write an Effective Advertisement
Telephone Etiquette Tips – Handling Client Calls
Preparing for an IRS Audit
Starting a New Business
Choosing a Business Name

By Chris Brunner
Thursday, November 15th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Networking |

Investing in Energy

Energy — in a variety of forms — has a continuous and direct effect on our daily lives from top to bottom.

At present, fossil fuels account for 86 percent of world energy consuption. By 2020, global demand for energy is expected to outpace current world production by nearly 40 percent.¹

Here’s my energy portfolio:

IGNAX – Ivy Global Natural Resources Class A
IGNCX – Ivy Global Natural Resources Class C

…and a new fund that I will be investing in today:

WEGAX – Waddell Reed Energy Fund Class A

…and I’m considering buying into this new fund:

GAAEX – Guinness Atkinson Alternative Energy Fund

I predict that industrialized nations will witness an accelerated use of fossil fuels for another 10-20 years. The price of oil and gas will soar and supply will diminish rapidly.

Within 5 years, I see focus moving to renewable energy and alternative energy research, development and infastructure on a large scale basis. This will set up another energy investment opportunity for lucrative returns many years down the road.

¹ EIA; BP Statistical Review of World Energy


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

Recommended Resources:

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


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

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Money |

Yoga at Your Desk

Owning a small business is typically a stressful endeavor, especially if you are the only one running the show. The daily grind can cause muscles to tense and eventually bones to move out of position.

To relax your mind, body, and spirit … try Yoga. I started a routine at home last week that has really helped to relax my back and shoulder pain as well as helping me sleep better at night.

Most Yoga DVDs are the price of a typical Hollywood movie. My wife purchased “Yoga Zone Intermediate”. A few parts of it are cheesy, but the stretches demonstrated really work.

You can even do Yoga stretches at your desk as a break from work.

Recommended Reading:

Yoga @ Your Desk
Nine to Five Yoga


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Building Your Office
Scheduling Time to Relax
Helping Ensure Your Employees Get Along
Recruitment Management Software
Finding the Right Price for Your Product or Service

By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Ownership |

IBM’s SecureBlue Encryption

IBM Corp. has announced “SecureBlue”, a security architecture that “can be built into a microprocessor chip to provide defense features previously unseen”.

IBM claims “the chip encryption process allows for increased security for both the microprocessor on which it is added, and the entire devices the chips are used in.”

Unfortunately IBM’s encryption engine is not plug-and-play. SecureBlue will need to be woven into a processor’s circuitry during the manufacturing process.

This means that the first offering of SecureBlue will likely will end up only in devices made by companies that hire IBM’s custom engineering unit. That group’s projects include chips for medical and defense systems and video game consoles.

Official IBM Press Release

Related Readings:

IBM Bakes Security Into Processors
SecureBlue, New Encryption Chip from IBM
IBM Partners with Missouri State University to boost IT training


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IBM’s 500Ghz Cryogenic Chip
The Benefits of Adding Video Surveillance
What to Expect from Technology in 2007
Taking Business Ques from Nintendo
Protect Your Wireless Networks

By Chris Brunner
Monday, November 12th, 2018 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Technology |

Windows XP on Apple/Intel Computers

Apple Computer Inc., the maker of the Macintosh computer and iPod music devices, on Wednesday rolled out a software patch under its plan to move its computers over to Intel Corp. microprocessors.

Apple said that the new software, called “Boot Camp”, enables Intel-based Macs to install and run Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system software. Boot Camp is available as a download beginning today.

Apple Introduces Boot Camp

Recommended Reading:

• AppleXnet.com – Apple OS Boot Camp Details
• Technovia – Why Boot Camp Won’t Make Much Difference
• InfoWorld Daily – A first look at how Apple’s Boot Camp works


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
What to Expect from Technology in 2007
Which Internet Browser Should You Choose?
3 Ways to Pay Less for Technology
How to Secure Your Business Against Computer Viruses
Effective Logo Design for Small Businesses

By Chris Brunner
Sunday, November 11th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology |

Product Stickers and Respect

Jason Fried over at Signal vs. Noise made an excellent point yesterday about respecting products you make and the customers who buy them.

Does this company respect me? Try the sticker test.

For instance, those pesky information stickers that come on just about everything, including INSIDE of a tea-kettle I bought recently.

• Are they easy to remove?
• Do they leave a sticky residue when removed?

Here is this great product I purchased and the manufacturer insists on sticking something on that completely mars the surface.

When these stickers are included, I can discern that the manufacturer probably has not tried to remove one of these stickers from their product themselves. They stick it and forget it.

This tells me that they don’t care about the product, or me.


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Building Your Office
Customer Reviews Make Business Better
Taking Business Ques from Nintendo
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Protecting Your Product
Knowing Your Customers

By Chris Brunner
Saturday, November 10th, 2018 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Operations |

Holographic Storage Drives

A new and exciting development in data storage has been announced by Inphase Technologies out of Longmont, Colorado.

Inphase has demonstrated the highest data density of any commercial technology by recording 515 gigbits of data per square inch. By comparison, magnetic disks, such as those used in the hard drives, can manage a storage density of about 375 gigabits per square inch.

Holographic drives use a three-dimensional image generated by lasers to store information.

InPhase will deliver the industry’s first holographic drive and media later this year. The first generation drive has a capacity of 300 gigabytes on a single disk with a 20 megabyte per second transfer rate. The first product will be followed by a family ranging from 800Gb to 1.6 terabyte (Tb) capacity.

Quick Facts:
• 50 years lifetime compared to today’s 7 years.
• 70% more storage space.
• 90% cheaper

Half-Terabit per-square-inch Data Density Achieved

Recommended Reading:
• Engadget.com – New Record set for Fastest Data Transmission
• BBC.co.uk – Holographic Advance Aids Storage
Inphase Technologies


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Business Instincts vs Data
Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8
A Newer Way of Avoiding High Energy Bills
Entrepreneurial Style
Elements of a Franchise Agreement

By Chris Brunner
Friday, November 9th, 2018 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Technology |

Dealing With Angry Customers

If you are a seasoned small business owner, you’ve probably encountered the pissed-off customer who either treatens to shut your business down, or who throws a temper tantrum until they get their way.

For new business owners or people thinking of going into business, you should be prepared to deal with this no matter how much confidence you have in your products or services.

5 Simple Tips For Dealing With Nasty Customers

1. Don’t take it personal.
2. Don’t overdo the “customer is always right” concept.
3. Realize it isn’t always your problem.
4. Don’t fall for fear invoking bluffs.
5. Decide whether or not a customer relationship is worth salvaging.

Following these steps will help you keep your sanity when bearish customers come calling.

Recommended Reading:

• Leadership-Tools.com – Dealing With Angry Customers
• Work911.com – The #1 Mistake Made Dealing With Angry Customers
• Gaebler.com – Customer Support: Handling Angry Customers


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Tips for Dealing with Calls from Upset Clients
What Successful People Do – Part 2
Should You Fire Your Ad Agency?
Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service
What Ever Happened to Customer Service?

By Chris Brunner
Thursday, November 8th, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Customer Service |

Entrepreneurial Style

BusinessSeek.biz has published an article titled “Compensating for Your Entrepreneurial Style“.

The author, Glenn Beach, offers a list of important characteristics every entrepreneur must possess to succeed.

1) Ability to see the big picture and plan accordingly;
2) Self-discipline;
3) Ability to use time wisely;
4) At minimum, a moderate drive to achieve;
5) Adaptability;
6) Autonomy;
7) Decisiveness;
8) A feeling of control over your own destiny;
9) Having (energy) drive and enterprise;
10) Motivation to grow;
11) Sense of intuition;
12) Ability to spot opportunities;
13) Perseverance;
14) Problem-solving abilities;
15) Risk-tolerance;
16) Self-confidence;
17) Social skills.

Over the course of running a small business, I’ve had to use or develop nearly every one of these characteristics. Some professions require more development than others.

A website designer’s optimal characteristics for success would be (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13).

On the other hand, let’s say you operate a restaurant. Your optimal characteristics for success would be (2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17).

What is YOUR entrepreneurial style?

Recommended Reading:
Wikipedia.org – Entrepreneur
Planning a Vivid Future: Brian Scudamore’s Key Move
Is Entrepreneurship Really For You?


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Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies
Barriers to Marketing Success
Holographic Storage Drives
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Business Trends in 2007

By Chris Brunner
Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Ownership |

Recruitment Management Software

A recent iLogos Research study revealed 94% of Fortune 500 companies now hire employees online, a stark contrast from 1998, when only 29% of them were doing the same.

The demands of small business owners everywhere are being met by developers who have been busy creating software that can manage new employee recruitment online. This technology could make your life as a small business owner easier, bringing in stronger, more savvy candidates.

It’s important to do your research and find the technology that’s the best fit for your company. When shopping around for a recruitment manager program, consider the following questions:

Cost: Is the advertised price the actual price?
Ease of Use: Is it easy-to-use, even if I’m a computer novice?
Setup: How long will it take to get up and running?
Features: What’s included?
Service: Will I get a helping hand?

Source:

How to Hire Like the Fortune 500’s

Recommended Links:

Google Directory – Recruitment Management
Get More Marketing Value from Recruitment Software
The New World of On-Demand Software


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New Innovations for Deterring Software Piracy
Help Wanted: Advertising Job Openings Online
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By Chris Brunner
Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Technology |

Motivating Employees

I’ve come across an excellent guide from on motivating employees.

This guide is packed full of fantastic ideas to get more and better quality work from your employees by doing more than just offering a raise.

Sections include:
• Corporate Culture
• Morale Boosters
• Recognition
• Non-Cash Incentives
• Motivation by Compensation
• Creating a Fun Workplace

Inc.com – Guide to Motivating Employees


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By Chris Brunner
Monday, November 5th, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Human Resources, Motivation |

SBA Hurting Small Business?

BusinessWeek Online has posted a very interesting interview with Lloyd Chapman, founder and president of the American Small Business League (ASBL), a federal small-business policy watchdog group based in Petaluma, Calif.

… last year he filed two lawsuits against the Small Business Administration for information pertaining to contracting fraud, and he’s gearing up to file two more.

Mr. Chapman speaks with Stacy Perman about what he views as a hostile environment toward small businesses as well as loopholes that give large corporations small business contracts.

Read the entire interview at BusinessWeek.com
Read SBA Administrator Hector Barreto’s response


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By Chris Brunner
Sunday, November 4th, 2018 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Operations |

Alternative Minimum Tax

This year, it’s estimated that millions of Americans will pay the Alternative Minimum Tax, also known as AMT. The AMT requires some people to pay more than regular income tax.

Congress enacted the AMT in 1969 following testimony by the Secretary of the Treasury that 155 people with adjusted gross income above $200,000 had paid zero federal income tax on their 1967 tax returns. In inflation-adjusted terms, those 1967 incomes would be roughly $1.17 million in today’s dollars. Source: TaxFoundation.org

11 things that may cause an AMT liability:

• Excessive Exemptions
• Standard Deductions
• State and Local Taxes
• Interest on Second Mortgage
• Medical Expenses
• Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions
• Various Tax Credits
• Incentive Stock Options
• Long-Term Capital Gains
• Tax-Exempt Interest
• Tax Shelters

Read more about these AMT liability factors

A major flaw in the AMT:

The Alternative Minimum Tax is NOT adjusted for inflation. This means that with each year that passes, more and more people will be affected by this double taxation. This includes people who were not originally targeted for this tax — middle and upper-middle income families.

If left unchanged, the AMT is estimated to penalize nearly 15 percent of taxpayers by 2010–some 12 million Americans in total.

Recommended Reading:

• IRS.gov – AMT Assistant
• Fairmark.com – Alternative Minimum Tax Guide
• Smartmoney.com – The Alternative Minimum Tax
• TurboTax.com – Alternative Minimum Tax FAQ


Image Source: National Center for Policy Analysis


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National Minimum Wage on the Verge of Increasing
Estimating Self-Employed Tax
Last Minute Tax Tips
Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 3)

By Chris Brunner
Saturday, November 3rd, 2018 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Taxes |

Adding Value to Your Business

I believe that there are two types of entrepreneurs:

1) The owner who plans to keep their company in the family, often passing it down to children or a trusted protege.

2) The owner who envisions selling the business for a large profit to another entrepreneur or to a larger corporation.

I will focus on entrepreneur #2, the seller.

In order to sell your company at maximum profit, you have to provide a maximum value to the buyer. After all, who wants to spend a ton of money on a company with financial woes offering shady products labeled with a terrible brand?

While there may be a few rogue investors out there who might jump on board, chances are you won’t get even close to the offer you hope for.

What can you do now to add value to your business?

1) Take care of the finances. Hire a professional to audit your books for three years worth of accuracy. Audited financials are golden and can bring a quicker close to the sale with limited investigation.

2) Reposition your reputation as the owner to emphasize the reputation of the company. A brand can be worth more than the business itself! (See #18, Louis Vuitton – bottler of Moët champagne and Hennessy cognac, producer of designer fashion and luxury cosmetics… a brand worth more than giants like Honda, Ford, Dell, Pepsi, Sony, Nike, etc.)

3) Brainstorm new proprietary products or services that fulfill a need of your customers. Even if they are not released, the raw data for these new ideas could serve as extra incentive for a buyer.

4) Build extensive customer lists and operation manuals if you do not already. Customer data can be a goldmine for someone buying your company. Operation manuals ensure the next person will have an idea of how everything works.

5) If you contract anything, make sure that it is short-term and does not require your involvement once the sale is complete. If long-term contracts are already in place, make sure they are fully transferable to the next owner.

These steps take time to execute which is why a decision to sell should be made long before the actual sale takes place.

Bottom line: prospective buyers want to see profit and value. With a strong combination of both, you will get closer to selling for what you really think your business is worth.

Recommended Reading:

• Entreprenuer.com – Growing a Business to Sell
• Powerhomebiz.com – Selling Your Small Business
• About.com Small Business – Selling Your Business Nest Egg
• Business Info Zone – Adding Value to Your Business Before You Sell It


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Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 1)
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 2)
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By Chris Brunner
Friday, November 2nd, 2018 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations |

IRS Payments by Credit Card

Starting this year, business owners will be able to pay employment taxes — Forms 940 and 941 — with plastic.

For the first time this tax season, business owners who paid $1,500 or more in wages in any quarter of the previous year will be able to make federal business-tax payments on their American Express, Discover, MasterCard, or Visa, the Internal Revenue Service announced on Jan. 5.

On top of collecting air miles and other bonus points on their cards, small-business owners could cover employment taxes with a credit card payment, then — depending on cash flow — could hold-off on paying the balance on the cards until later in the month.


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By Chris Brunner
Thursday, November 1st, 2018 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Taxes |