Category — Small Business Advice
Hiring an extra employee can help your business expand and provide better services to your customers. Many businesses choose to create an employee contract for each new addition to the company’s team. You must generate a small business employee contract even if you are hiring an old colleague or a friend. Small business employee contracts protect your business and your employee. In addition, they let the employee know what his or her job expectations and the terms of employment are. This includes what hours the employee is expected to work and how much he or she will make while working.
Include All Basic Information in Your Employee Contract
There are certain things that you must include in your small business employee contract in order for it to be effective. For example, you have to include your employee’s starting date. You should also include your employee’s responsibilities while he or she is working for your business. The employee contract also gives you a chance to explain your employee’s compensation package. A compensation package includes benefits, medical leave, vacation time, your employee’s salary, bonuses and stock options if stocks are available. You should also include how often your employee will be paid in the contract.
You will also use the employee contract as a way to explain how many hours your new employee will be expected to work. This will ensure that there will be no confusion about anything later. If overtime is available at your business, provide more information about it in your contract. For example, you will need to explain what the pay structure is for overtime. You also need to include how pay raises are given out and how often performance reviews are done. You should also explain how much notice your new employee has to give you before he or she terminates her employment at your small business.
Use Your Employee Contract to Protect Your Business
In order to protect your business and your employees it is a good idea for you to draw up different employee contracts for each new employee that you hire. This is safer than just using the same standard contract for each employee. Each person you hire will have different compensation packages and job responsibilities based on their experience, knowledge and background. Having employee contracts that explains everything to them can build a trusting environment and that can help you keep your business active and productive. Your employee contract needs to explain everything to your new employee. It should also protect their rights and your rights. Your employees need to know that they are being treated fairly. It also gives you a chance to show that you will respect and value their efforts. Remember to include a nondisclosure agreement in your small business employee contract. Nondisclosure agreements make sure that your employees will not share any business secrets while they are working for you. You should also find out what state laws will affect your employee contract. Everything must be legal. Because of this, it may be a good idea for you to get the help of a lawyer.
October 3, 2012 2 Comments
Most small business owners understand that good communication is vital in being able to run a successful company. Even with this understanding, many businesses still find it difficult to maintain effective forms of communicating with consumers and other businesses. In today’s society, some of the most common forms of communication include emails, traditional print advertisements, virtual ads, tweeting, and much more. When companies fail to communicate in proper manners, this causes marketing campaigns to fail, and this leads to decreases in profit levels.
Fortunately, there are quick fixes that can be implemented to ensure successful communication is maintained. All small businesses should consider some or all of the following communication tips:
Use Social Networks: With millions of consumers taking part in online social networks, businesses will find it very beneficial to dive into these media platforms. Anytime companies choose to take this communication route, it is wise to partner with a social network professional. In doing so, businesses can rest assured their brand is being reflected in a positive manner on the networks. It is also smart to start out by only partaking in one or two social networks because when trying to juggle too many of them, companies often end up developing a bad online appearance.
Utilize Spell-Check Programs: There is nothing worse than sending out advertisements and emails that display incorrect spellings and grammar. When this happens, businesses look unprofessional and are not taken seriously by consumers; this leads to a decrease in customer loyalty as well as in sales levels. It is also smart to avoid using slang. Slang words and phrases are many times only understood by people living in certain regions. In order to captivate the attention of consumers on a global basis, slang should always be avoided.
Be Positive: No matter what type of communication businesses take part in, they should always strive to be positive. Even if bad news needs to be relayed to consumers, employees, or other businesses, there is always a positive way in which the news can be communicated. Messages should not be created by people who are in a bad mood or having a bad day. When this happens, many times, a negative tone becomes apparent in the content of the messages.
Thank You Notes: Consumers and other businesses greatly appreciate it when they receive thank you notes. Many businesses brush off the idea of sending out these types of notes, and this is very unfortunate because such notes can be extremely effective at increasing brand awareness. Thank you notes can be sent out in a number of different situations including after a sales transaction has taken place, a business deal has been completed, or just as a way to tell consumers that they are appreciated for being customers.
Hire a PR Consultant: Hiring a PR consultant can help small businesses maintain effective forms of communication. From handling social media communications to writing articles for newspapers, this type of consultant is definitely worth the investment it takes to obtain his or her services.
September 13, 2012 No Comments
Protecting an office requires unique considerations that are not needed when protecting a home. Sensitive customer data, employee turnover, trade secrets and expensive electronics are all things a small business owner must take into account when designing a security plan. Another challenge when securing an office is that the threat of theft can come from the inside as much as the outside. It would be nice if we could all trust our employees like family but the reality is that an employer must always err on the side of caution. Fortunately, there are many easy and affordable things that can be done to add various levels of safety and protection to your office.
Top Ten Ways to Secure an Office
1. Outside Lighting
If your office has access to the outside you must ensure that all exits are adequately lit at nighttime. Nothing is more appealing to an intruder than an entry point that is dark and hidden from view. You can get inexpensive motion activated lights that will turn on every time something or someone moves near them or you can setup time activated flood lights to illuminate all your entrances. If your business has a parking lot, you should also ensure the entire parking lot is well lit to protect your employees that work late and have to walk to their car in the dark.
2. Computer and Laptop Locks
Computers are expensive enough by themselves. When you consider the cost of replacing the data on the computer, they are priceless. Even if you back up your company’s data onto a server, many important documents may only live on the physical hard drive of the computer. While laptops are especially easy targets due to their small size and portability, a simple laptop lock is all you need to secure the physical device and at the same time protect the stored data.
3. Surge Protectors
Not only do you need to protect your computers and other electronics from theft, but you also need to protect them from the elements. A lightning strike can be a disaster for an unprotected office. Insurance may replace the device itself but it can not replace the data on the computer or the time it takes to reconfigure the device. However, a few surge protectors can easily prevent this situation from ever happening.
4. Lockable File Cabinets
Even though we store most information electronically these days, most companies will never truly be paperless. It is important to keep all sensitive documents and files stored under lock and key to ensure unauthorized individuals do not have access. There are many kinds of file cabinets with locks and you should choose the cabinet that suits your office’s needs. Basic file cabinets with a lock may be enough to keep nosey employees out of important documents, while a Sentry file safe will protect your documents from burglary and fire damage.
5. Key Management
As you add various levels of security around your office, you will inevitably end up with a wide variety of keys. Simply keeping things locked will not provide protection if you do not also protect the keys to those locks. It is always best to minimize the number of available keys floating around your office so they do not end up in the wrong hands, but you should also ensure that you keep all keys locked up. A locked drawer may be enough, but for the bigger offices with numerous keys you can also look at adding a commercial key cabinet. Key cabinets let you store your keys in an organized and secure way. As the business owner, you should maintain control over the key for the key cabinet for maximum security.
6. Data Security
Securing your office’s electronic information is more important than ever but you do not need to invest in an expensive IT security division. Encouraging your employees to use strong passwords for their computers is a good measure that doesn’t cost anything. There are also numerous low cost options for virus protection to maintain network security. It is equally important to protect the data that is no longer needed. A paper shredder that turns your documents into little pieces instead of strips will ensure that no one is able to piece together your old documents. Also, destroying old hard drives before you throw them out is a security measure many employers forget.
7. Access Control
Whether it is high quality deadbolts on your exit doors or an advanced electronic access control system, it is crucial to restrict access to your building so that only authorized employees can get in and out. If you can’t afford a full on access control system with proximity cards and access management software, you can add more advanced door hardware that uses access codes or biometric fingerprint readers. Make sure that you change access codes whenever an employee leaves the company.
8. Video Surveillance
Cameras can be the biggest deterrent to theft or vandalism. When someone thinks they are being recorded, they almost always behave. You can use this to your advantage by installing dummy cameras which don’t actually record but still provide protection. If you want to take it to the next level, a quality DVR camera system will keep recorded footage of all installed cameras on an electronic device that can be reviewed after a situation has occurred. Network DVRs are even more secure as the data is stored off-site and therefore can not be tampered with during a burglary.
9. Alarm System
Alarm systems today are much more advanced than in the past. Wireless alarm systems do not even require wires run throughout your property which can be a huge hassle and expenditure for a small business. Alarm systems can simply sound a loud siren when an intruder is detected or you can opt for a monitored alarm system that is backed by a central station that can deploy emergency response after an alarm is received. Luckily, for those frugal home or business owners, security companies have begun to really cater to those who like to do things on the cheap. DIY home security wasn’t possible 15 years ago. But now with the internet, much of what used to require specialized knowledge is able to be replicated by individuals who simply want to save money by doing things on their own. If you want a recommendation on a good looking control panel that will get the job done, we recommend the Honeywell L5100. This unit is the plain Jane version. For those who want a wireless setup, you can extend it to make the Honeywell L5100 wifi enabled.
All of these steps are important and should be utilized in whichever capacity works for your office. However, even if you chose the most advanced expensive options for each step, things can and will happen. Therefore, it is vital that you have adequate insurance to cover any damag e, theft or false claim against your business.
Follow all of these steps and you can then spend your time developing your business instead of worrying about potential disasters.
August 24, 2012 No Comments
A small business has to develop and apply the right kind of marketing campaign. The plan increases the chances of getting the right reply from a target audience. It is essential that entrepreneurs should know that there are different types of campaigns. First, they must know the target market. Along the way, they must be ready to make changes, product improvements, package changes and other steps.
Business owners must know the right customers to reach and best times and methods to reach them. Succeeding in any campaign means finding and exciting the target audience. The most accurate results can be obtained from various studies and surveys. After figuring out the needs of the company, it is time to be creative and spark interest from the targeted section of the public.
There are certain steps that businesspeople can do to carry out demographic research. They should list the different groups of customers and then list the ways that the product or service suits each group. Next, advertising methods and messages should be chosen that work best with each group. People should set up continual case studies of the targeted market to know what to do to deal with competitors. The perception of certain ads will vary with different groups. Some people are turned off by certain messages, so it is important not to offend a potential customer.
Starting small is important until enough profits are available. Small business owners should not imitate campaigns that are done by huge businesses because the work will cost too much. Going the whole nine yards is not required because the process is just starting. One of the first steps is to develop the ads well so that sales are converted correctly.
Advertising should be brief and straight to the point. Promotions that are concise and interesting will always be more successful because an entire book is not required to sell a product or service. The task will be highly affordable, as well.
There are print and online marketing options available. Regardless of the advertising option, business owners must constantly monitor the ups and downs of the campaign. Putting up a campaign is not enough work – people have to make sure that it is effective. Those who have small companies should make use of the expenses in the best way possible or they could go bankrupt.
The online world has more than enough resources that promote guides for professional campaigns. Entrepreneurs should be able to customize the guide and use their own personalities. Many companies participate in mass advertising to lure in as many customers as they can, but small businesspeople should start small in terms of budget and target as much as possible.
July 16, 2012 No Comments
Many businesses are always on the lookout for ways to bring in new customers. While there are plenty of traditional mediums available such as TV, radio, and print, there are sometimes more effective ways to get targeted leads. Instead of sending out a mass marketing message to a large group of people, and hoping to find a few, it is sometimes better to tailor a message to a select group of people. This exact strategy can be used by utilizing pay per click marketing. What exactly is pay per click marketing, and why would a business want to use it?
Pay Per Click Marketing Basics
With pay per click marketing, businesses can create marketing messages that go out to people who are looking for what they have offer. These programs are typically offered by search engine companies like Google. Companies can sign up for the program, and then create ads that are designed to get customers to their websites. They choose a specific list of keywords that will trigger the ad.
Once the ad is running, when someone types one of the keywords into the search engine, the ad can then be shown on the side of the page. If the user clicks on the ad, he is then taken to the advertiser’s website and the advertiser is charged a fee. The amount that the advertiser has to pay is based on the popularity of the keyword and one other advertisers are bidding for it.
One big advantage of using this method of marketing is that it can provide highly targeted traffic to a company’s website. With this method of marketing, ads are only shown people who are actively searching for something related to the ad. Then the advertiser only has to pay when someone actually visits the site. This means that the advertiser is only paying when people who are really interested come to the site.
Another advantage of this method of marketing is that it is appropriate for any size business. Companies that have million dollar marketing budgets can use it just as effectively as companies that only want to spend $5 per day. This makes it an ideal solution for any business who wants more customers.
Tips on Success
Although this is a very powerful marketing medium, not every business succeeds with it. It has to be used properly in order to really work. One of the most important things to keep in mind when using this method of marketing is to use attention-grabbing headlines. It’s critical to get people’s attention when they are searching online. It is also important to have a consistent message always from the headline to the website. People like to see what they are looking for when they visit a website.
Overall, pay per click marketing is a method that can really work for a business. If the business is willing to test out a few different ads and keywords, the perfect ad can be developed which brings in customers every day.
July 12, 2012 No Comments
Web hosting problems can result from doing inadequate research during the host selection process, but you’ll need these services if you hope to successfully market your business online. Some useful tips in choosing a web host can set you on the right track in your choice of provider. If you don’t do the appropriate research, however, you can end up wasting months of time and thousands of dollars and you may even damage the reputation of your business. Before starting on a search for the best web hosting available, analyze your business requirements.
Is there any software you require to be run on your host server?
What kind of a load do you anticipate for your site?
What are your predictions about growth?
What kind of technical support will be needed?
What if anything will be required to interface your company’s software with your hosted applications?
What kind of security is required to protect your business? There may be legal requirements as well as general security standards that need to be met.
The answers to your questions will guide you to find the right kind of hosting service.
Five Things to Consider in Web Host Selection
All your security, technical, operational and support requirements as well as the reputation of potential providers need to be considered. Here are some resources that will help you decide whether your prospective web hosting service is right for you.
Consumer Rankings has published a recent top 10 report for hosting services. Their reports are based on direct product analysis as well as product reviews. In depth information is provided about each site including awards received, services provided and pricing. Links to each company’s site provide a convenient way to do further investigation.
Security is important for maintaining the confidentiality of company information and the integrity of company assets, and is often a legal responsibility, especially when data is financial or patient related. Many web hosts offer security services and secure email at a reasonable cost. Services like web hosting with Yahoo Small Business will provide you with many of the basics you need to run your company along with business-grade security features. Desirable security features include SSL for secure encryption, Firewalls, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), DDos prevention to protect against the ever more common denial of service attacks by hackers, which prevent online services from operating. A secure PoP3 server, antivirus and antispam are important as well.
Scalability and Availability
As a business grows, its information needs and associated bandwidth grow as well. There may very well be an increase in traffic to the site. A good web hosting service will be able to accommodate an increase in resources and should be able to do this in a transparent fashion. In addition, a hosting service should operate 24/7 with excellent response time.
Technical requirements may include specific server side software such as PHP, Perl, MYSQL and Python. Some businesses may need software for eCommerce or rapid website development. Database administration tools such as PhpMyAdmin may be required.
Support Services Adequacy
When there are questions or problems it’s important to know that you can talk to support, because your web host controls the web server infrastructure and you don’t.
Choosing the Provider
Having defined your company’s requirements and examined how selected host services can meet your company’s needs, it should be easy to narrow things down to some excellent candidates. Campanies like Yahoo have impressive track records and should give small business managers peace of mind with regards to their hosted operations. Other hosts may be more appropriate for other websites. Small scale startup businesses with Linux hosting in mind may be able to get excellent low cost or even free hosting services to meet their needs.
July 11, 2012 No Comments
During the course of running a business, there are many expenses that may pop up which entrepreneurs didn’t expect. If a business owner is looking for ways to save money on the expenses that they incur on a regular basis, investing in the right technology might make a difference. There are several new technologies that a company could put its money into in order to save over the long-term. Here are a few examples of technologies to consider.
VoIP or voice over Internet protocol is one technology that businesses may want to look at. With VoIP, businesses can set up a complete phone system that runs over the Internet instead of through phone lines. Businesses can get a complete PBX system just like a regular company has. The big difference with VoIP is that it usually much cheaper than other comparable systems. With VoIP, users typically pay one low monthly fee for all of their inbound and outbound calls across the country. Users can choose their area code or get a toll-free number as well. If users are paying too much for their current phone service, they may want to check out VoIP.
Another technology that could potentially save a business money is an Internet fax service. With Internet fax service, a company can avoid having to print out faxes that come in. Instead of printing them out, the company can simply receive them online through email. If the message is important, it can be printed out. If not, it can be deleted. This also has the potential to save the company quite a bit of money in toner and other expenses. It also eliminates the need to pay for a separate phone line for the fax machine. In fact, it can eliminate the need for a fax machine all together.
One of the biggest expenses that most businesses incur is paying for their electricity costs every month. With the way that electricity costs are rising, many businesses are looking for ways to save money on these expenses. With advancements in technology, there are now several ways that a company could get electricity without paying for it from the grid. Many businesses are switching over to solar power or wind power as a way to save money. While these technologies do come with a large initial cost, they will usually pay for themselves pretty quickly.
Many businesses spend a lot of money making sure that every employee has a phone with an intercom system installed on their desks. While this is a common way to communicate with other people in the building, it is expensive. A cheaper alternative is typically to just use instant messaging software. Everyone already need a computer on their desk to do most jobs. If they will simply install instant messaging software on the computer, employees can communicate with each other for free. Not everyone needs a phone in order to do their jobs effectively in today’s business landscape.
How are you saving with technology?
July 9, 2012 No Comments
Marketing could improve your company’s local identity. Using several low-cost marketing ideas, you might increase your company’s revenue too. Small business owners who realize a higher sales volume may notice greater profitability as well. You can take a methodical approach toward growing your small business.
Identifying your prospective customer base could enable you to spend your marketing dollars in the proper places. Using data from your existing client base, you may be able to determine demographics such as whether most of your customers are consumers or business owners. Target marketing can position you to concentrate your resources toward growth opportunities.
Studying information about customers who buys your products or services could enable you to perform some market research. An analysis of your client base within certain zip codes may enhance your ability to distribute a sufficient amount of marketing pieces. Your research might suggest the need for greater circulations in some areas such as direct mail or printed advertisements.
A marketing budget can limit the amount of money that you spend on advertising campaigns or promotional activities. Staying within your allotted marketing budget could enable you to keep your small business finances in order. You might be able to implement a strategy that utilizes a portion of your sales revenue toward marketing initiatives.
Using a well-written plan, you can focus on the advertising objectives for your company. Your plan might include activities for building your company’s brand recognition or corporate identity. Planning to grow a small business could entail online or retail strategies.
An Internet presence frequently provides ideal options for most small businesses. Typically, you can advertise more cost efficiently, showcase your products for less money and you can create items such as an online newsletter or customer surveys. Using an inexpensive website, you can market your products and your services on the Internet.
Printed Advertising Materials
Whether you advertise in local newspapers or with specialty promotional items, you may be able to grow your small business with printed materials. Using newspaper ads, postcards and flyers, you may be able to create compelling buying incentives. Small retail business can design banner ads and other types of display advertisements to attract more customers into local stores. You can locate an assortment of printed promotional items for your small business.
Discounted Promotional Items
Low-cost promotional materials could enable you to buy items in larger quantities or you might realize a greater profit potential. Local office supply stores or local printing companies may provide discounted promotional items. Shopping for promotional items online could help you save more money.
Incremental steps may be taken toward building your small business. Some governmental agencies provide financial assistance and small business marketing ideas for newly formed businesses. You can obtain help toward growing an existing business too.
June 20, 2012 No Comments
Thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier for a small business to engage in efficient marketing on a shoestring budget. In many cases, you can even compete with much larger businesses by being smart and utilizing cost effective advertising. With that being said, let’s talk about some marketing methods that are either free or inexpensive for small business owners.
Starting a blog is something that has become commonplace and is great for staying connected with existing customers and acquiring new customers. The process is pretty straightforward and involves routinely posting promotions, new products or services, special offers and general industry information. Blogging tends to be effective because it’s a great way to interact with your demographic on a personal level and helps establish trust. It’s also extremely convenient and allows you to reach numerous people with ease.
If you already have a website for you business, you can simply incorporate a blog into it. Otherwise, you can purchase a domain and a start a blog with your own dot com. If you aren’t concerned with having a domain, you can create a blog completely for free on websites like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Typepad.
Another technique that’s free to use is social media. By creating pages on some top visited websites like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, you can interact with relevant people within your industry all around the world. After creating a page and filling out the profile with your business information, you can update your page with helpful content that makes people want to follow you. You can also streamline the process by following other people within your niche and networking with them.
You can also sync up your different social media accounts so that followers on one website will follow you on another. In time, you can expect to build a significant following of people all over the world who are interested in your business. After you achieve a following, you will have a loyal group of individuals who will make purchases as well as recommend your business to their followers, friend and family. For this reason, other people sometimes end up doing your marketing for you with social media. If you have products or services that are truly great, they may end up going viral in some cases where they reach a massive audience overnight.
If you have a website, setting up an email campaign with a company like Aweber can also be effective. While this service costs around $20 per month, it’s a great way to leverage your website to increase sales. It works by creating an opt in form for your website where people can sign up to receive your newsletter in their email. Once you create a list of people, you can simply send out bulk emails that features things like new products or special promotions. This technique tends to work well because of the genuine interest that most people will have when receiving emails. As a result, you can often expect a high conversion rate.
June 13, 2012 No Comments
Small business owners are constantly keeping an eye on the company bottom line and doing everything possible to generate a profit. Developing ways to generate new business is the lifeblood of any organization. But keeping operating costs low is also a method for creating profit for the bottom line.
The difficult part that most business owners run into when it comes to saving money on operations is maintaining product and service quality. There are techniques a small business owner can use that will keep operating costs low while allowing the entrepreneur to retain the quality of his offerings.
As a business grows, it becomes inevitable that the company will need to bring in people to accommodate the increase in activity. The problem is that employees become expensive with the need for payroll services, office space, office equipment and overhead costs such as utilities. Employees also get paid sick days, vacation time and weekends off. Independent contractors eliminate all of those extra costs.
When a company utilizes independent contractors, it does not have to supply any office space, office equipment or do any payroll work. The independent contractor is brought in to do a specific task by a deadline utilizing its own resources. All the company pays for is results.
A small business does not want to skimp on its marketing budget, but the costs of doing large-scale advertising can get expensive. That is where the Internet comes into play. The Internet is a way for a small business to reach millions of potential customers simultaneously and for almost no cost.
Social networking is a small business marketing resource that should be maximized as much as possible. There are marketing companies that specialize in social networking for businesses that would be worth looking into. The return on that investment could be significant.
Videos on the Internet are becoming popular, and that is why a small business should utilize the free video hosting websites to its advantage. A small business owner can create inexpensive product or company videos and then promote them across the social networks. As long as the videos are entertaining, they will gain an audience.
Many small business owners save money by running their businesses from home. But there are other businesses that cannot run their businesses from home and need to rent facilities. One of the ways a company could save money on facilities costs is to share costs with another company. For example, an accounting professional can share an office with an attorney and the two can split all of the costs of running the office.
Another way to save money on facilities costs is to utilize free public resources. For example, rather than renting an office space with a large conference room for presentations, a company could rent a smaller office space that shares a conference room with the other tenants in the building. The company still gets the office space it needs and it also has access to a free conference room.
Running a small business means watching out for expenses. With some creativity, a good entrepreneur can find creative ways to keep operating costs low and profits high.
June 1, 2012 No Comments