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Category — Small Business Advice

How to Treat Your Employees Right

Small business owners spend a lot of time and effort looking for ways to cut corners and find ways to add a few dollars onto the profit margin. What they overlook is their most valuable assets: their employees. If employees aren’t happy working for you it really doesn’t matter how much money you’re making or how much work you’re generating. Disgruntled employees can sink the best of ships with waste, poor attitudes, and discourteous customer service. Though you can’t fix everyone, here are a few tips on how to make your good employees even better. After all, happy employees are what makes your business a success.

The first thing to remember when relating to your employees is that respect is a two-way street. If you expect someone who is working for you to respect you as the boss you’re going to have to give it back. Mutual respect invites your employees to be loyal to you as opposed to just giving the job lip service when you happen to be looking. Respect begins with how you view your employees. Each one is an important person, a valued part of your organization, and someone you never talk down to.

Ask anyone what he or she expects from the boss and the answer is almost always “be fair”. This means that everyone is treated the same, the rules apply to all employees equally, and favorite employees aren’t allowed to soak up the advantages of a good relationship with the boss through manipulation or dishonesty. Other employees may not say anything but rest assured, when the workplace isn’t fair and the rules don’t apply to everybody, they all know it. Fairness also means disciplining rules violations or even firing when appropriate.

The best wages and benefits packages possible are great motivators. Not all small businesses can pay well and even fewer can afford to provide insurance for health, dental, and vision. Employees know what you can afford to give them for an honest day’s work without seeing the books. They might not be on the dollar but it doesn’t take a genius to know when he’s only scraping by on what he takes home and the boss is off vacationing in Europe or living in a mansion. A big discrepancy between your benefits as the business owner and what you pay your employees is a sure-fire disaster waiting to happen. Pay as much as you can. You’ll be loved for it.

Everyone wants to know what’s going on. Trust your people enough to be honest about the financial status of the business and where the business is heading. Good employees will help make things happen that you want to see.

Last but not least, go the extra mile. Give an office party once in awhile. Touch base with the janitor to see what he or she might be needing. And it doesn’t hurt to smile.
The overall principle of employee/boss relationships is simple. Treat your employees the way you want to be treated.

January 25, 2011   No Comments

Creating a Marketing Plan

Too often businesses open their doors fully expecting a large customer base to suddenly appear. In reality, it is up to the business owner to draw the customers in. The key to growing and maintaining a profitable small business is developing an effective marketing plan, complete with the following components.

Creating your marketing planProduct or Service Development and Design
Development and design includes deciding what products or services your business will provide, what purpose they will serve, and at what cost. Details such as product color, size and packaging are selected during this process. Development and design turns an idea into a reality.

Research the Competition
Find out how long your closest competitors have been in business, what products or services they offer and how much they charge for them. Learn your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to help improve your advertising plan.

Research Your Target Customers
Knowing details about the customers you are trying to reach helps you create an effective advertising plan. Age, gender and location are common factors when determining your target customers.

Although there are many avenues available, generally the most valuable method of advertising is word of mouth. Ask your satisfied customers to share their experiences with their friends and family. Networking groups can also help increase your customer base. Many business owners will display your business cards or brochures at their location if you agree to place their materials at yours.

Another useful tool is your website. Several companies offer free or low cost sites with easy, do-it-yourself instructions. When preparing text for your website be mindful of search engine optimization, or SEO. Using commonly searched for keywords and creating links to and from your site are ways to become more visible to search engines. Be warned that designing a website can be a daunting task If you are unfamiliar with the proper website setup procedures, it might be advisable to consult a professional.

Printed material like newspapers, magazine and direct marketing materials can reach a larger audience. Other media such as radio and television also get your information out to the masses. Make sure your printed material is being sent to people in your target demographics.

Your brand is the image you want your customers to have of your business. Being known as faster, cheaper or friendlier than the competition are a few of the endless possibilities. Decide how you want your business to be perceived and then take the appropriate actions to make that perception a reality. Create a slogan or motto for your company to support your brand. Make sure your slogan is catchy, compact and easy to remember. A memorable slogan goes a long way toward reinforcing your brand.

Marketing strategies should be reviewed at regular intervals to assure your plan remains effective and keeps up with current market trends and services or product lines offered. Whether you are opening a new business or you have been in business for years, making a marketing plan can be both beneficial and financially rewarding.

January 24, 2011   No Comments

Small Business Suggestions

Starting a small business can be a wonderful experience but it can also be challenging and time-consuming. There are a few suggestions; however, that can help when wanting to start a small business.

First, be sure to save as much money as possible before beginning a small business. A good plan is to save as much money as possible for this investment and also include your expenses for day to day living for at least a year. Once your business gets going, you will want to put back most of that money into your business so that you can pay for such things as operating space, advertising, insurance needs and equipment.

Then, begin your small business on a “small basis.” For instance, if you can work somewhere else and not have to rent a place, that will help. And, if you don’t need to hire employees right away, do what you can by yourself or with a family member or friend.

Another tip when considering a small business is to create a business plan. It is important to understand the need to know your profit numbers and creating a break-even analysis. A profit-an-loss forecast and a cash flow projection are also helpful. When you create a business plan you will also be able to project your start up costs and what marketing strategies you will need.

It is also vital to keep a competitive edge—knowing more than your competitors—and that can happen by creating a product that is difficult to duplicate, establishing your business in a great location, be effective in making and distributing your product, and giving excellent customer service. And, make sure to put all agreements in writing. It is also advised to seek legal counsel to ensure that your business begins and stays, in the up-and-up.

In addition, to keep your small business going and highly productive, hire good and competent people. A competent employee, who is motivated and positive, can be extremely valuable to your business. Of course, to hold on to such an employee, you will need to treat your employees fairly, professionally and with respect. It is a known fact that employees who are treated fairly and in a decent manner, will be more productive and attractive many more customers.

When it comes to advertising your small business keep your advertising focused on producing sales. Some successful businesses include offers in their advertising. And, when advertising, offer a lesser version of your product at a lower price. Many customers are not willing or unable to pay the asking price for a service or product. On the other hand, some customers are looking to buy a high quality product. Therefore, you can increase your revenue by also offering a more high quality, comprehensive product or service.

January 6, 2011   1 Comment

Wholesale Week in Review

Dropship Tips: A Beginner’s Guide to SEO for Ecommerce

For those new to dropshipping, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and, in short, allows search engines to find a specific website. Keywords are essential for SEO, and it is recommended that good keywords that point directly to a product or type of product being sold be used in the title, URL, and 5-7% of the content of a retail site.

News: New Google Algorithm Pushes Out Bad Merchants

Google is modifying the way retailers appear on searches. In the past, retailers appeared based on relevance; however, Google is now taking into account customer reviews, with those businesses receiving negative reviews falling to the bottom of the list. Google claims that they will monitor reviews to be sure that authentic comments are being made. This should be a reminder to all e-retailers to place an emphasis on good customer service.

Online holiday sales are up 12%

Online sales are up 12% from this time last year. This is most largely attributed to free shipping offers. There was a 20.8% increase on free shipping orders the last week of November from the same week in 2009. Retailers continue to have success offering free shipping as the average order with free shipping is 30% higher than an order that does not include free shipping.

Fraud protection is the top concern for online shoppers, says a new study

In a survey asking consumers to consider fraud protection, product search availability, and a website’s ease of use, 30% stated that fraud protection is the most important attribute. The three sites consumers were to focus on included eBay, Overstock.com, and Zappos.com. 78% of those surveyed considered eBay to have the best fraud protection as well as the most attractive site layout and least amount of glitches.

SEO Tips for Google Instant That Will Help Your Dropship Business

Google Instant shows search results as the searcher is typing. Online retailers need to adapt SEO in order to be seen with this new search enhancement, and the following four suggestions are offered to assist with this adaptation. Make sure the website is up-to-date and will catch a viewer’s attention, include well-written meta-descriptions, write descriptive alt tags, and compose enticing header tags.

December 17, 2010   No Comments

Spreading Holiday Cheer as a Small Business Owner

Many small business owners are wondering how they can spread holiday cheer this year. As a business owner, you’ll need to choose activities that help you develop and maintain good interpersonal relationships with employees and business contacts. You’ll also want to use the holiday activities to help establish a positive public profile for your business. Moreover, you’ll want to project a professional image and use your resources wisely while you’re spreading Christmas cheer.

Here are some activities small business owners can easily use to spread holiday cheer:

  • Invite various community groups of different belief systems to hold their holiday celebration events at your place of business. This promotes goodwill in several ways, while saving your own resources.
  • “Adopt” someone: You can set up a donation campaign to help out a needy cause, local family, or local institute. Collect warm clothes, blankets, food, toys, or money throughout the days leading up to the holiday. Then either host a giveaway yourself or give the donations to specific charities to be distributed to the needy. However, if you collect food for the homeless, remember they have no way of cooking it. Most of all, remember to give out press releases before, during, and after the special events occur. This not only promotes your community image, it makes everyone involved feel extra special to see their names in print.
  • Give away practical, yet inexpensive gifts to everyone: Combine promoting your business with gift giving. Give out nice pen sets and other practical promotional items that are engraved with the company’s logo. Make sure the gift is something that can be used all year round, or that may easily be shared with others. For employees and special business contacts, engrave the item with something that will have personal meaning to them instead of your company logo. This will make each feel special, yet not cost a small fortune.
  • Cut decorating expenses by encouraging employees to decorate their own work spaces with items brought from home. Or increase your community goodwill by letting a local elementary school or your customers submit decorations for public display.
  • Save time, fuel, and energy: Combine tasks as much as possible. Arrange errands so they are all in the same area. Do your shopping online whenever you can. While you’re online, send out e-greeting cards and holiday newsletters, to both, personal and business contacts. Be sure to include your seasonal sales information in those business holiday newsletters! You can also save resources by turning your office party into an employee potluck buffet.

These are just a few of the numerous ways you, as a small business owner, can spread holiday cheer. If you put your mind to it, you’ll probably come up with some creative ideas too. If you get stuck for ideas, then try polling your employees for their opinions. After all, no one knows better than you and your employees just what you are or are not willing to do to spread holiday cheer.

December 15, 2010   No Comments

Lighten Up, Dude, It’s Christmas! Part 1

The small business competes with some heavy hitters in the national mega stores. The personal touch, though, is lacking in the mega stores and here is where the small business can make Christmas a little merrier. By adding personal touches like small cards with Christmas figures and signed by the owner for each customer in their shopping bag or a Christmasy gift like a candle or a scented sachet, the small business can create a memory that will bring their customers back for more.

The mega stores have professional decorators "do" their stores for the holidays or they buy great amounts of stock decorations and keep them in the stockroom all year. It looks professional and is geared toward leading the customer’s eye to large ticket items. Decorations like these have no warmth, though, and seem ordinary to most people. The small business owner can’t match that but in that lies his strength. Decorations are decorations no matter how you arrange them but the personal touch is where the small business owner can create a market that will return throughout the year. Handmade garlands made of a few items sold in the business make a unique Christmas tree decoration and endears the customer to the imaginative decorator. This would work well with tiny cupcakes in a bakery, for example, or in a handicrafts shop.

Every small business owner makes an effort to learn his customers’ names. Asking about the customer’s baby’s cold or his wife’s sister in Seattle lets the customer know he’s not just another ch-ching on the cash register. At Christmas this can stand the owner in good stead when he decorates. Bells cut out of construction paper and outlined along the edges with customers’ names and hung throughout the store gives everyone a sense of belonging sadly needed in these days. Personal notes on personal stationery concerning upcoming sales mailed to customers instead of a cold email no one pays attention to anyway go far toward creating or retaining a market long after the holidays have passed.

Christmas is about more than just Santa madly dancing with Mrs. Claus in the window. It’s about more than just the lights. It’s about how the lights make you feel when you look at them in the store. If the lights showcase a nativity scene, for example, that creates a hush and a feeling of awe. If the lights form angels they make people look around them to find the angels dressed up as humans. If the lights form a sleigh, people think of playing in the snow with their children and they resolve to go home and throw a snowball at their kids. So lighten up, dude!

The small business owner has an opportunity to create here and reach out personally and that is one thing mega stores don’t do. In a world where technology rules and digital is king, the personal touch is slowly coming back through people who care about other people and light up their lives.

December 7, 2010   No Comments

3 Ways For Businesses To Save Money On Holiday Greetings

If you’re looking to tighten up this holiday season and save a little money on your holiday greetings without skimping on style then we’ve got a few tips for you. The holiday season is also a busy time for every business and you want to make sure that you work as efficiently but cheaply while maintaining the high quality appearance of your business. Our gift for you this holiday season is a list of three things you can do to save money over the holidays.

Go Electronic

Every business has a list of emails these days and you can send an email for free instead of paying for postage through US mail. You can knock up a stylish email greeting card or even use one of the greeting card websites to make your own stylish greeting card with your companies name on it. One big advantage to online cards is you can use them to link to your website as well, something you can’t do with a traditional greeting card. You can also use it to promote any holiday specials and get a more direct return on your investment than you can with a traditional holiday greeting card.

Buy Cards in Bulk

Get some bulk business cards to help get your business started right. If you have connections in the local business industry you might also be able to find some cards from a local printer who is overstocked. Talk to some friends in the local business community and see what they have on offer and you might find a cheap gem. If you can’t find someone to help you out with some overstock cards then take the time to figure out how many cards you need in advance and then buy them all in one go and get the largest bulk discount you can. Here’s a bonus tip for next year too – if you shop for holiday cards right after the holidays you can get some killer deals even at the big box stores. It’s the perfect way to stock up on some high-quality holiday cards for next year without breaking the bank.

Send a Generic Card

If you’re looking to save some time, and time is money, then you should be sending out generic cards to everyone except your biggest clients. While it would be nice to send out something really personal to all of your clients from the year, keep your personal cards to those people who really kept you going and shoot a generic one out to the rest. You have better things to do with your time than write hundreds of different messages in cards. So that’s a few things that will help you save money over the holiday season. If you’re still looking for more ways to cut back then you can try offering employees a little more holiday vacation time, or shutting down for an extra day or so over the holiday. The holiday season is always going to be expensive on the personal side but with a little imagination it can be a lot less expensive on the business side.

December 6, 2010   No Comments

Gift Giving in Business – More Than The Thought That Counts

There was a time when giving gifts to business associates and clients was an all or nothing proposition. Either you gave them nothing, largely because of the cost, or you limited gifts given to only “special” clients, also largely due to cost. Fortunately, thanks to a lot of creativity, not to mention technology, today you can give gifts that can be obtained at reasonable cost, thus enabling you to give some sort of gift to practically everyone on your client list.

Let me tell you about Bob. Bob didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but he prided himself on liking all of his clients and wanting to prove it with some sort of Christmas “gift.” The result was a chance encounter with an advertising specialty salesman who told him about a wide selection of gift ideas that would literally allow him to control his bottom line for gift giving, thus allowing Bob to give something to everyone on his client list.

One look at an ad specialties catalog and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the variety of items that can be personalized with the name, address, logo, and phone number, along with some other line of greeting or slogan of your business.

Ad specialties are an excellent method of giving gifts for special occasions. It’s also worthy of note that tailoring your needs and budget to a gift is the specialty salesperson’s stock in trade. And fortunately, the flexibility offered by specialties can work with one more important variable: delivery.

How you are planning to deliver your gift to the recipient is an important consideration when selecting a gift. For example, one friend of mine will not send a mailing promoting his gift without including some sort of premium inside. Of course, this necessitates that the item be lightweight and flat so that it fits inside of an envelope. Items such as nail files and large plastic paper clips are perfect for this use.

The method of delivery was also an important consideration when another businessman friend wanted to give away coffee mugs to clients who visited his office over the course of the holidays. This gentleman had a clientele that frequented his office on a regular basis, so when it came time for an appointment, each client was offered a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, which came in an attractive mug that, when emptied, became a gift. This unexpected gesture was a very welcome surprise, even if it did have the giver’s name, logo and contact information attractively printed on the outside.

All of this goes to show that with a little effort, patience and creativity, gift giving to practically all of your clients can be fun, useful, and very economical. It should also be noted that with a special gift in hand, a client who visits your office or when you visit his, can turn a business call into an unexpected pleasure.

November 30, 2010   No Comments

SBA Backed Loan Offering to Help Small Business Owners

Phoenix, AZ – November 2010 – This month, leading online B2B wholesale distributor DollarDays introduced a partnership with Superior Financial Group to help business owners secure Small Business Administration loans.

DollarDays is the premiere online wholesale and closeout company that helps small businesses to compete against chain retailers by offering more than 140,000 high-quality goods at prices close to those at which large enterprises purchase. Through this new lending program, people will be able to access the application for a small business loan ranging from $5k to $25k directly through the DollarDays website. The loans, provided by federally licensed SBA lender Superior Financial Group, are geared towards start-ups, home-based businesses, and small businesses.

“With lenders giving preference to larger businesses with more assets, there are less dollars for small businesses like start-ups and mom & pop stores,” says DollarDays Founder and President Marc Joseph. “DollarDays’ main principle is about helping small businesses stay competitive with larger retailers, and this program offers a solution many business owners can’t find elsewhere. It’s an affordable way to help people secure SBA-backed loans of up to $25,000 and continue to grow and scale their businesses.”

There is no collateral required to secure a loan, and it is possible to get funding within days of completing the online small business loan pre-qualifier application. There is no risk obligation, no prepayment penalties, or balloon payments, so the loans can be paid off at anytime. There are also special loans available for Export business.

“We are excited to be teaming up with Dollars Days and help provide much needed capital to help small businesses grow in these challenging economic times,” says Tim Jochner, CEO of Superior Financial Group.

To apply for a small business loan through Superior Financial Group, you can visit the DollarDays website and click on the banner in the right margin to apply. DollarDays members can also apply for a loan through the fast and easy SBA loan pre-qualification process.

DollarDays International is a Web-based virtual warehouse, where small business owners and charities can find great deals on small business-sized orders from more than 140,000 consumer products, like wholesale jewelry, wholesale clothing, household décor, electronics, and seasonal merchandise. The company’s unique, innovative business model enables small business owners to offer quality merchandise, membership free, while reaping the same kinds of discounts and margins routinely offered exclusively to the largest retailers. In 2006, DollarDays made its debut at number 158 on Inc. Magazine 500 list of fastest growing private companies and recently was named one-of-50 second-stage Arizona “Companies to Watch” by the Arizona Small Business Association. Feel free to contact DollarDays at any time at sales@dollardays.com or 1-877-837-9569.

November 16, 2010   No Comments

A Small Business Suggestion for the Holiday Season

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, many small business owners are looking to do something special for their employees, something for their customers to carry on the holiday spirit. Beyond being fun, beyond being an effective way to further endear your business to your clients and employees, this also helps to sort of “legitimize” a newer business.

Think about it. Suppose it’s December fifteenth and there are two local shops that only opened their doors for business a few months ago. One has their Christmas decorations up, the other doesn’t. Clearly the one with some decorations up is going to look a little more professional than the other, a little more like the management really cares and is trying to put every effort into their business.

So, if you’re looking for something special to do but can’t make up your mind, take one of these suggestions and see if you can work it into your own plans. These are all designed to go a step beyond simple decorations to spread the holiday cheer, but without forcing you to dig deep into the corporate account.

Red and Green Paper
This is just a little thing, but you might be surprised what a difference it makes. Clearly you’re not going to replace all the printer paper with red and green Christmas themed stationary, but if you get a roll of red or green receipt paper, some red and green post-it note pads and so on, it can really brighten up the atmosphere around the office.

Secret Santa Gifting
The whole secret Santa thing is a longstanding workplace tradition. The anonymous gifting allows workers to give away only one present, as few people can really afford a present for each and every person at the workplace on top of all of their own family and friends. The Secret Santa tradition gives employees something to look forward to when they get to work and encourages a friendlier atmosphere around the Holidays.

Thanksgiving Office Pot Luck
The problem with the holidays is that people tend to skip right from Halloween to Christmas when it comes to decorations and parties and so on. Other than the family feast, you’d almost think Thanksgiving was just another Thursday. Well, with an office pot luck as a warm up dinner about a week or so before the big day, it’s easy to encourage the notion of treating your co-workers as family and boost the office morale. Just provide the paper plates and maybe a treat of your own and you’re good to go.

The bottom line is that running a business can’t all be boiled down to spreadsheets and numbers and business intelligence and so on. There’s also a human element that is often neglected, and the holidays are when that human element becomes very important. If you have employees and clients who are happy around December, you can consider office morale to be far above and beyond average.

November 8, 2010   No Comments