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Category — Small Business Advice

The Many Parts That Make Up a Successful Small Business

Before anyone starts a small business, they must make a list of all goals they have and every way they can reach those goals. Making a long list of goals, concerns, finances, and more is the only way to start on the right track. Starting a business is all about paying attention to detail and researching every aspect of business. Also, many tips that business people should learn are available so they have a better chance at success.

Business consultant
Many entrepreneurs want to succeed so badly that they seek second opinions whenever they can. They decide to use the services of business consultants and research a certain professional’s licenses, experience, references, testimonials, and other details. Businesspeople also look into the consultant’s personality so the interaction will be easier. For some, a consultant that has a long line of diverse networks and can provide referrals is important.

With or without a business coach to lead the way, every prospective business owner must have a sensible and detailed sense of finances. There are a range of expenses that are related to business from investments to profits. Studying sales and revenues allows people to gain a better understanding of the potential earnings for a business in a specific amount of time. This detailed analysis will lead to an optimal outline of goals and budgets. A realistic overview of expenses will show how expensive business can be and how much steady investment is required to keep the business from sinking. It is a good idea for people to look over every level of financing every month. This is the best way to know where to spend and save.

Web Design
The process of starting a business goes well beyond finances and into areas that are very different but still important. Web design companies are made for the benefit of businesses and provide a long list of services that vary from a simple page layout to complicated search engine optimization (SEO). Web design is a technical process that many businesspeople do not want to deal with, so they must hire web designers. At least, it is important to know the basics of web design for business. Some websites are designed to promote certain products or services and have a great deal of content and visually appealing, flash-based designs. There are ecommerce sites that are designed to sell products. Sites that have more to look at will be more expensive. Knowing what to include on every web page will lead to greater control and success.

Businesses should also know the type of advertising methods that are available for small businesses. One option is to choose advertising that is cost-effective and another is to choose advertising that is targeted to a specific audience. Businesses that serve a local market will want to focus mostly on local advertising that may include passing out flyers, putting up ads on the radio, and more. Another popular option nowadays is to advertise using social media sites. There are plenty of marketing methods that companies use every day to reach a target market or every consumer sector in the world.

Starting a business involves a good amount of risk and pressure. There are many business courses, consultants, and methods that are available to offer help to those who need it most. However, the most important tip is to take a tried-and-tested route and take risks only if the best judgment has been made.

December 2, 2011   No Comments

Small Business Tax Tips

Keeping track of small business finances can be a daunting task. Come tax time, many small business owners feel overwhelmed by their business taxes. Many business owners enlist the help of certified public accountants to get their taxes done correctly. These professionals can be of immense help. Even if a small business owner selects to hire a CPA, there are still some general points that he or she needs to understand about business taxes.

It is important to realize that different business structures are taxed differently. Sole proprietorships, corporations, and various partnership structures each have their own particular rules and regulations. For example, partnership entities in the US do not directly pay income taxes. Instead, the income made by a partnership is taxed once it has been passed through to the owners. A traditional C corporation, on the other hand, does have to pay direct taxes on income. Additionally, the owners of said corporation are still taxed on their individual earnings from the business. In a very real sense then, business owners who keep a C corporation structure instead of choosing an S corporation structure are taxed twice, which is not usually the best situation for small businesses.

Since different structures can result in drastically different tax levels, entrepreneurs should think very carefully about which structure to pick when first setting up their businesses. Entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with the basic taxation differences between each type of business organization. A qualified attorney or accountant can then advise business owners on their final decisions.

Smart business owners should become familiar with the required local, state, and federal tax filing schedules for their businesses. Depending on how much income a business is bringing in or paying out, withholding taxes or sales and use taxes might be due biweekly, monthly, or just once per quarter. Although accountants usually take care of these documents themselves or at least remind their clients when forms are due, it still makes good business sense for owners to have the general tax timelines in their minds.

Perhaps the most important tax tip for a small business is to keep meticulous records. Entrepreneurs should record every expense and keep copies of every receipt. Business owners should also develop a logical filing system for all of this information. There are many computer software packages available that help small businesses keep track of their finances. Such programs are also usually capable of automatically generating tax forms, which can save businesses time and money.

Setting up a dedicated business bank account is also highly advisable to avoid any potential tax issues. Personal and business finances should never be mixed. Although it might be more convenient to put this week’s groceries on the company credit card, such an action can severely complicate an organization’s record keeping. Mistakes on tax forms are much more likely to occur if it ever becomes unclear which expenses are business ones and which are personal ones. In the case of an audit, such confusion can be very detrimental.

November 24, 2011   No Comments

Money-Saving Tips for Small Businesses

Opening and running a small business is an exciting new venture with many opportunities for those who are entrepreneurial or business-minded. Although it’s important for them to invest in the business, small business owners should also be careful how and where they spend. Start-up costs can add up fast and it may take a few months to start turning a profit. The savvy small business owner incorporates money-strategies into every area of the business, whenever possible. Doing so allows them to manage cash flow and cost in order to prevent financial problems from occurring early in the business.

Only Buy What You Need

Purchases and expenditures should be carefully planned. In order to grow, small businesses need to advertise and this can get costly. Instead of paying to have a commercial made and aired throughout the metropolitan area, small business owners can have signage made and posted for much less money. Office supplies are another area where small business owners can save money. Rather than buying a desktop computer for each employee, they should buy only the amount needed for the employees who truly require a computer to complete their work.

Shop Creatively

Owners of small businesses can benefit by shopping creatively. Retail office supply stores have to turn a profit, too. Business owners can save money by shopping at discount or outlet stores, as well as from auctions. Discount stores often carry discontinued products that are completely functional but have been replaced by the latest, greatest design. These types of shopping alternatives can save money by cutting costs or by getting small business owners a larger amount of product for the normal price.

Barter and Negotiate

Small businesses open all the time. By working together, small business owners can save each other money through bartering and negotiating. A small business that makes signage and another one that sells office supplies can barter to take care of business needs without adding cost. Additionally, the small business owner should always negotiate price when possible. Although retail chains aren’t likely to negotiate, there’s a lot of room for negotiation in auction-based business and with other small business owners.

Reuse and Recycle

When other businesses upgrade supplies and equipment, or go out of business, they usually liquidate in order to bring in some cash. Liquidation sales are an effective way for small business owners to obtain the supplies and equipment they need for their businesses without buying them brand new. These sales can be found in newspapers and are advertised on the businesses themselves.

Buy or Ship in Bulk

Bulk purchases save the small business owner money because the high number of items being purchased brings the total price down. Bulk rates can be taken advantage of for buying things such as office supplies or when shipping packages and mailing items to customers.

Business owners might not think that saving a few dollars here and there is a big deal. But over the course of the year, these savings can add up and have a positive impact on their bottom line.

November 21, 2011   No Comments

Videos Compel Attention and Enhance Customer Memory

Small Business owners must consider the advantages of including video on their websites and posting them on YouTube and other forums. Videos are more compelling than simple type and draw viewers’ attention. Potential customers are 50 percent more likely to click on a video when perusing search results. If the video is informative or humorous and engages the viewer, they are much more likely to follow through by reading your content or clicking on a link to your website. That point is the first thing to consider when creating a video. The commercial must have a call to action. That action could be accessing a company’s website, filling out an online form for further information, or contacting a company directly. Successful videos always include a call to action on the part of viewers.

Videos either call for immediate action or encourage the desire for a particular product or service. Videos are more memorable than print alone, so viewers of videos are more likely to remember a particular company when they are ready to make a purchasing decision. There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that consumers discover a video. The video may not receive a cult following, but it may reach the necessary demographic and achieve its goals without necessarily going viral.

Clear resolution is a necessity. Video has evolved from the grainy out-of-focus offerings of years past. High definition videos make a good impression on viewers. Content is important, but first the video must be clear. Videos should be shot in wide screen HD quality with 16:9 aspect ratio. They should be posted in MP4 video format with H264 file compression. Keep videos very short unless the subject matter is particularly complex and technical and targeted to an audience that understands the discussion. How-to videos may also be a bit longer since they must include all necessary steps to complete the assembly or process being taught.

Videos are accessed by the same process as other online services through the use of keywords. The keywords should be included in the video if there is audio. These keywords must also be included in the title, in the first few descriptive words about the video and in the tags. Try to keep titles within 65 characters including spaces. Longer titles may be clipped in search results. The first 140 words of any video description are what searchers see, so these should be engaging enough to draw viewer interest. A 5000-word description is allowed and marketers should take advantage of the space to connect with important keywords, always remembering to refrain from the kind of keyword stuffing that can cause search engines to downgrade a listing in search results.

Captioning is another tool that can be employed to promote a video through clever use of keywords and descriptive tags. YouTube allows customers to create their own captions or will provide the service for video postings. As soon as a video is released, employ YouTube’s share option, so it is available on a company’s Facebook page. The video can be embedded in a blog, mentioned in tweets and generally promoted in any way possible to increase viewer traffic.

November 17, 2011   No Comments

Business Needs to Help Solve Homeless Issue

Marc Joesph, founder of DollarDays Int. has a new article out on the International Business Times website.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

What has America gotten itself into? Just about every state and every city is cutting back funding to services needed by those who need it most.

In Chicago, the headline read “Temperatures Dropping. Will the State Restore Funding for Homeless Shelters?” It goes on to report that the 2012 budget was cut 52 percent for homeless prevention services. This cut is on top of the fact that more people were turned away from homeless shelters in Chicago last year than were taken in.

Read the full article HERE and make a comment!

November 16, 2011   No Comments

Getting Your Small Business Off the Ground

When you are getting your small business off the ground, there are several avenues that you should consider when doing your initial planning. You need to start out by sitting down and setting out a series of goals for your business, both long and short term. Ask yourself where you would like your business to be, who is interested in your product or service and how you plan to market your business.

One of your primary concerns will be with keeping your overhead, or business expenses, low. Supplies are one spot that can often eat into profits, so keep close track of them and use them wisely. One way to save money here is to recycle your file folders. When you need to change one, simply put a new tab over the old one and it can easily be used again. If you will be using a large amount of one particular item, consider buying in bulk. This often costs less than buying them in smaller packages.

Keeping close track of your business expenses is also important. Track your mileage for business trips, going to get supplies and related work activities. You need to keep a running tally of expenses for supplies, utilities and related costs. These can be used as deductions on your taxes at the end of the year. The easiest way to do this is to keep a vehicle expense record, which has organized slots to keep track of mileage and costs. This makes it simple to add things up at the end of the year.

If you plan to take your business online, you can save a lot of money on your overhead versus running a traditional type of store. Your primary cost with an online store will be with marketing, primarily in the use of advertisements that are displayed on other websites. Marketing online also involves activities such as blogging, making links and adding informational articles to your store. These activities help to keep customers informed about your business, any sales that you may be having and new products you may be featuring.

Your blogging efforts should start out small, beginning with a free membership on a blogging site. Updating it frequently with helpful tips, informational posts and hard hitting news will keep your customers in touch with your business. You will also get to know a lot about the types of services and products they are interested in, which helps you to target your business in the right direction.

Your business can also grow online by having a strong social presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These sites are great places to get in touch with your customers and conduct market research. You can see what is exciting your section of the market and adjust your plan accordingly. By paying attention to your marketing, costs and plan, your small business will have a better chance of being successful and profitable.

November 14, 2011   No Comments

Successful Small Business Tips for New Business Owners

Small business owners are often simply people who have left unsatisfying career paths to fulfill their dreams of owning their own business. Owning and running a small business is a challenge that never seems to end, and it places many demands on the business owner. The first five years the business is open often determines whether the business will develop into a successful and stable company, or whether it will join millions of other unsuccessful small businesses and close its doors permanently.

Though many new small business owners are operating on a strict budget, it is imperative not to skimp on advertising. Getting the word spread about the opening of the business, as well as the products and services the business offers is important to the immediate success of the company. Advertising can be accomplished on a budget, thanks to the Internet. Internet advertising has leveled the field between large companies and small businesses by providing both with an affordable venue to reach out to millions of potential customers across the globe.

Creating a company website should be one of the first goals a business owner addresses. Website development and creation can be done on a budget and can help to inform local shoppers in the community of the small business, as well as to inform shoppers across the nation of the business. Website content for the business should be informative, creative, and should hold an element of intrigue that will encourage browsers to make a purchase. Offering new customer discounts and Internet ordering promotions will help to entice new customers to make a purchase and will encourage customer loyalty.

In addition to making advertising a priority, joining vending markets and festivals to offer free product samples and coupons will also help to increase awareness of the company in the local community of the business. When a business combines a great product or service with superior customer service and a willingness to work hard to spread awareness of the company, it becomes intriguing to the local community it is in. Word of mouth amongst consumers is the best possible type of advertising for a business.

When consumers try samples of a product and love it, they are often quick to tell their family and friends about the product and the business. This encourages others to try out the goods offered by the business. Providing gift baskets available for sale, as well as making gift cards and certificates a possible purchase will also be another helpful service small business owners can offer to the public.

Email newsletters and local mailers will increase interaction with customers and is an affordable way to inform the public about new sales and promotions that the business is running. Creating a social media page through Facebook and Twitter is also another great way to increase customer interaction and this will help to secure a relationship with potential customers in the community, as well as Internet customers.

November 2, 2011   1 Comment

Organization for Small Businesses

Organization is an aspect of running a small business that often goes neglected. Some people do not naturally keep things organized; others do not have the proper tools to stay organized. Among entrepreneurs, very few have time devoted specifically to maintaining order.

However, organization is a vital aspect of running a small business. When people speak of organization, they often picture a desk, closet or storage area. But, there are multiple aspects of organization within a small business. First, the business must physically be organized. Second, it must electronically be organized. Becoming orderly in these key areas will increase productivity, use resources more efficiently and boost profits.

Physical Organization
People often picture a desk or storage area when they think of organization, because these are the places where becoming organized begins. The physical organization of a business acts as the foundation for all other aspects of the business. Building a business upon a messy system of organization is like building an office on a pile of stones. The supporting structures must be strategically placed.

Depending upon the nature of business, the organization will vary. A doctor’s office will need quick access to patient files, whereas a warehouse distribution center will need to be able to ship large equipment. While the specific method of organization will vary, there are a couple of principles to keep in mind.

The system must be planned. The haphazard placement of items somewhere, whether they are papers or refrigerators, does not work. Rather, strategic planning is required. The most used items should be the most accessible. A few minutes spent planning will save many hours over the course of a year.

After a system is planned, it must be implemented and followed. Having an idea and not implementing it is useless, as many small business owners know. However, the more difficult aspect of organization is maintaining it. Running an orderly business is an ongoing effort. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to business as well as science. Essentially, it takes effort and energy to maintain order. Without work, order becomes disorganized. Whatever the organizational system is, people must put in the effort to follow it.

Electronic Organization
Electronic organization has become just as important as physical organization. The principles are the same when organizing electronic files as when putting physical objects in order. There must be a system, and it must be planned, and it must be followed.

The system for electronic storage is slightly different than for physical storage. With electronic files, there are many programs that organize the data already. The most generic of these is the file system that all operating systems have. These can hold folders and files, and they will sort them or search through them. Yet, many businesses can benefit from specially designed software. This will vary from industry to industry, but there is a program for every need.

Becoming organized is an important aspect of running a small business. This includes both physical and electronic organization.

October 27, 2011   No Comments

Can Your Business Benefit from SEO?

As a business owner, you may have heard the term “search engine optimization,” or SEO, thrown around, but you may be unsure as to what it is or why it’s important. Essentially, SEO is the process of helping your business’ web site to rank higher in search engine results. By ranking higher, you have a better chance of being found by potential customers, and thus, receiving more business. If you don’t know much about SEO, the process can seem complicated, but in reality, it’s fairly simple.

Think of your web ranking as a popularity contest. Search engines incorporate a number of factors to determine where your site ranks when someone searches for a keyword, and the more popular your site is, the higher up you will rank. However, it should be noted that this type of popularity doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does. In fact, your site’s popularity is not determined by how many visitors it receives, but instead by how many links it has pointing to it.

Incoming links, sometimes referred to as backlinks, are one of the most important parts of SEO. By having many backlinks pointing to your site, search engines then view you as more popular. The key to using backlinks to your advantage is to link keywords. For example, if your site sells shoes and you’re located in New York City, you would want keywords such as “shoes New York City” or “New York City shoes” to be linked back to your site. This can be achieved by writing blog articles and then linking keywords, or having news stories link keywords back to your site.

Another important part of SEO is optimizing the metadata on your page. Metadata is data that is used specifically by search engine robots that index pages on the web. These robots take a snapshot of you business’ site, and then this snapshot is stored on a search engine’s server. This snapshot contains information such as page titles, page content, and descriptions of individual pages. You can use this to your advantage to rank higher by ensuring that all of your metadata is optimized to deliver the most accurate information about your business and your site. Using the above example again, you could title your pages, “XYZ Corp. – New York Shoes and More” and add a description to each page that says, “XYZ Corp. sells the finest shoes in New York.” When search engine robots index your pages, they will know that when someone searches for “shoes New York,” your site should be included in those results. When you combine your optimized metadata with the strategy of using backlinks, your site ranks higher.

If you’re unsure of how to properly optimize your site for search engines, you might consider hiring a professional to help. An SEO professional can evaluate your site, explain the process in details and then set to work optimizing your site to achieve a higher search engine ranking.

October 26, 2011   No Comments

Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

Running a small business is a challenge no matter the industry or circumstances. Often, as a small business owner, you wear many hats, from Chief Financial Officer to Janitor and everything in between. One of the largest tasks you have is marketing your business. Marketing is different from sales, although they are related. Marketing is getting your company name and product out in front of potential customers and clients. Sales is when you actually close the deal and make the sale.

Hopefully, you are passionate about your business and your products or services. Take every opportunity to talk to others about what you do and your business. You might be surprised at how often you will pick up new business simply by talking about it to others.

Take advantage of any professional business organizations you belong to, including professional women’s associations, small business community organizations and any other local organizations that are related to your industry or might have potential customers as members

Networking does not mean you have to be pushy about talking about your business. It simply means that you are happy to talk about what you do and what services or products you offer. Your excitement and passion will shine through and will inspire others to be comfortable doing business with you in the future.

Social Media
Another area of marketing that many small business owners are just beginning to discover is the power of social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook. These social media outlets cost nothing to use and can direct a great deal of business your way simply by generating interest in your goods and services.

For example, if you have an ecommerce store or a traditional bricks and mortar store, you can send out Tweets a week in advance of a big sale you might be having. You can include a special discount code in the Tweet and all of your followers will be notified of the sale. They, in turn, may also send out the Tweet to their followers, which may result in more customers taking advantage of the sale.

Using social media can also be a boon to generating more internet traffic to your website. The more people that visit your website, the more you increase your opportunities to make sales. It also helps boost your search engine ranking.

Make Marketing a Priority
Although running a small business can be a daunting task at times, it can also be extremely rewarding. If you make marketing a priority, you will see a dramatic difference in your sales over the long term. Experts say that you should devote at least half of your time every day to marketing your business. This means that every activity that you engage in during that time period should be devoted to somehow generating new customers and increasing sales. Marketing includes a wide range of activities. Everything from writing new product descriptions on your website to giving a talk at your local Chamber of Commerce can be marketing activities. Think about the activities that you enjoy doing that promote your business and do at least one of them every day. Over the long run, you will see rewards in increased sales and new customers.

October 10, 2011   No Comments