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Category — Small Business Advice

Small Business Startup Tips

All small businesses have some financial hurdles they have to overcome. But by following these proven tips and techniques, most every small business owner can start to save substantial amounts of money in operating his business.

Establish an Online Business Presence

No matter what type or small business an individual is involved with, whether it’s product or service oriented, he needs to immediately establish a strong website to make potential customers aware of his very existence and to help increase sales. Even a brick-and-mortar shop needs to establish a powerful online presence. The best way to do this is to have a website professionally designed. If money is tight, there are many very low cost sites online that easily walk the website owner through a streamlined process of building a website. Make it look as visually attractive as possible with nicely worded text and attractive, colorful icons.

Buy Items in Bulk

All small business owners in order to save money must learn that one of the best ways to do so is to buy all of their products in bulk. Buying the products on a small, individual scale is very costly, so it’s necessary to find bulk suppliers of the type of product the business owner sells. He’ll find that the price per item will be dramatically reduced in terms of his cost when he buys in bulk as opposed to buying in small retail batches. All businessmen can obtain excellent value and prices when buying inventory at bulk purchase rates. Shipping rates overall will also be much lower when buying items in bulk.

Establish Orders on Credit

To conserve cash, which is usually in limited supply for new small business owners, simply try to establish credit orders from all the vendors that the small businessman deals with. It can be something as straightforward and common as 30 days net payment after delivery. Buying on credit buys time to utilize the cash for other business aspects such as payroll and overhead operating expenses such as rent and utilities, which businessmen can’t pay on credit. That’s why it’s essential to get credit extended on every single vendor a businessman is involved with, from his major product suppliers to his advertisers. Most companies will be very open to this because they also want to increase their revenue share of their target market.

Shop at Discount Supply Stores

Another superb way to conserve cash is by spending much less for a businessman’s products at major discount chain stores. These are the major shopping clubs that have physical locations around the country. They have such a wide variety of products in stock for sale that the small businessman can even purchase and save on office supplies such as printer cartridges and reams of photocopying paper. These discount houses stock everything at the lowest possible prices, including electronic products, apparel, technical devices, food supplies, and even a wide range of pharmaceutical products that the small businessman can purchase for him and his family at tremendous savings so specific business funds don’t have to be used for that.

April 6, 2011   2 Comments

Who’s Got The Time?

Every small business owner and home based business owner dreams of being an international bigwig with offices in Cairo, Sydney, London and Rome. In his dreams, he sees himself talking on three phones simultaneously, buzzing his personal assistant for a mocha latte while having his hair trimmed and notifying his pilot of a trip to the Bahamas in the company Leer. Time management won’t affect him at that level of business, but it sure does affect him in the beginning. When will he find the time to manage his accounts, reply to clients’ emails, blog himself into the bigtime or even grab a sandwich for lunch?

Luckily for this business owner, there are resources on nearby pages for doing just that. Time management in the beginning is crucial to the small business owner and the home based business owner. Making a list at the beginning of the business day is essential for keeping organized so that little details don’t fall by the wayside. Those little details, such as emails, outsourcing some of the workload, managing vendors and clients and such are the difference between staying in business and losing his clients. Software is available for such organization, as well as automated response software, outsourcing software, customer relationship software and much more.

No business owner can handle all that himself or he’d be in the office 24/7. That’s where time management skills come in. Trusting the software to handle the nitty gritty every day is easier to do when he understands what it is, what it does, when it does it and what the results will be. Tutorials on just such software are available along with pricing and hardware requirements. When the business owner chooses the right software for him and the level of his business, he can better manage what’s left to do, such as marketing, follow-up and vendor relations.

Not only that, but this business owner has a life, or at least that’s the theory. When will he have time to take his wife to dinner, see the kids play lacrosse or indulge in his hobby on his basement worktable? The small business owner and the home based business owner needs time to himself to unwind from the pressures of work or he’ll be no good to anyone. A relaxed, smiling business owner is attractive to his clientele which will bring them in more often, making his business better.

In today’s economy, small business owners and home based business owners are the example others try to emulate. Since we’re all in this together, providing a good example to those who, through financial necessity, look to begin their own business, means showing them how good time management works. Success breeds success, which will lift this economy out of the pits and back up where it should be. And then, who knows, maybe all the small and home based business owners can meet up in the Bahamas and learn how to manage some leisure time with those little umbrellas in drinks.

March 30, 2011   1 Comment

Building your business and succeeding

Study The Target Market
Marketing planning is an essential part of every small business. A study of the target market should be the first step in any marketing plan. Relating the findings of this study to sales and marketing helps define plan implementation as well as creating links to the best methods for small business promotion. In-depth knowledge of target markets has other benefits such as networking for business referrals through business associates and contacts.

Building Small Business Roots
A small business is not unlike a tiny seedling that can grow to massive proportions with the right amount of care and maintenance. Too often, through the breakneck speed of daily business transactions, the fundamental care and maintenance of a small business operation is overlooked. The small business growth phases from start-up to stable revenue should be considered carefully. A solid start-up with an energized propulsion for growth usually determines continued success.

Build roots from business start-up to insure the best promotion. These roots can begin locally or with a core group of business associates and client prospects. This may mean involving your business in a more diverse plan of promotion in order to cast the widest net. Though the net cast may be wide, small businesses need the security of discretionary choices of promotion. Advertising professionals know that small businesses with consistent, rather than sporadic, advertising visibility enjoy a healthy saturation of their products and services in their business community.

Know Your Business Promotion Style
With full knowledge of the target market, determining service or product saturation is less complex. The methods used to infuse the target market with the initial offering of services or products should reflect quality, consistency and reliability. Offering services or products in a unique style of promotion reduces competition for the same sales and marketing territories. Determine the style of promotion so it reflects business image as well as intent. Promotion style quickly becomes a formidable method of business identification and branding.

What To Do With Product or Service Saturation
Know the limits of saturation of the business offering. Acknowledge the point of saturation and effect a consistent method of maintenance for the saturated area to insure continued revenue. Recognize the saturation point as an opportunity to extend business roots beyond that particular region or domain. In addition, there’s a secondary opportunity to creatively reinvent promotions, advertising and presentation to suit the needs of the prospective clients in the newer sales and marketing territories.

Practicable Methods To Stable Revenue For Small Businesses
The small business composite of planning includes:

  • In-depth knowledge of target markets
  • Solid start-up with energized propulsion for growth
  • Building business roots through business associates and contacts
  • Discretionary sales and marketing promotion
  • Create a unique promotion style
  • Know service or product saturation limits
  • Maintain saturated areas for continued revenue
  • Utilize points of product or service saturation to extend sales and marketing territories

In addition to these mechanisms for growth, be vigilant of changes in market trends.

March 28, 2011   No Comments

Smoothly Starting Your Business

All business owners want their business processes to be completed as smoothly as possible, this is especially true for small businesses that are just starting to operate. If you are a business owner looking for ways to help your business obtain a smooth start then keep on reading.

Save Some Money, and then Save Some More

While SBA loans are an advantageous financial tool to lean on when starting a business, saving one’s money should always be the first thing listed on one’s business-starting checklist. There are too many people that believe they can take out a business loan and start repaying it immediately with the profits their business brings in; however, for most businesses it takes several months (sometimes even a couple of years) before profits are gained. So, for the first several of months a business is in operation a business owner should remember that loan repayments will probably have to come from their own personal savings.

All business plans should include a way for the business owner to make the first year’s loan repayments, while at the same time keeping in mind that personal living expenses will have to paid too. Most small business owners find it very helpful to first save up enough money to pay loan repayments for a year and also have enough money saved to pay their living expenses for a year; this helps them to keep their financial stress levels down, enabling them to focus on expanding their business, which helps them to begin enduring profits as soon as possible.

Think Realistically

It is always important for small business owners to remember to think small when first opening their business. While renting a huge workplace and hiring on a number of full time employees may seem very adventurous, it is not realistic for most small businesses when they are first beginning. Employees should never be hired on until they are absolutely necessary. In fact, there are a large number of temps that can be hired on until full time work becomes available.

Most small business owners that start out small endure less harmful consequences when they make mistakes, and any early screw-ups they make most times do not lead to harmful debt issues.

Understand Your Legal Business Entities

Many small business owners have learned the hard way that any business debts they incur become personal debts if they are not protected in the proper manners. A large number of small business owners find it financially wise to open their business as a corporation or LLC; this helps them avoid becoming personally liable for any debts that are incurred during their business operations.

Watch Who You Hire

There are a large number of job seekers in today’s society that are perfect candidates for small business operations. Instead of hiring average, competent employees, small business owners should hire employees that have special training in the job duties they will be performing.

March 24, 2011   No Comments

Small Business Owners: How To Let ‘Em Know You’re There

For the small business owner and the home based business owner, getting people to the on-ground store or the website is paramount to staying in business. Everyone knows about business cards and fliers, but what else can these owners do to catch the attention of potential clients? Since people respond to visual stimulation, small business owners can do three things immediately at little cost to stimulate that recognition and get some foot traffic going on. If the business owner knows of a dollar store nearby, it will have most of what he needs to get started.

Uniform Recognition

Chains use uniform tops to identify their employees which are usually worn over black or khaki pants or skirts for the ladies. These uniform tops are embroidered or sport a name tag with the company logo on them. If the business owner can go to a dollar store, T-shirts, ball caps, stencils and children’s finger paints. Paint the company name using the stencils onto the ball caps and shirts. If you’re not the artiste type, companies that embroider logos and company info onto uniform tops have specials for everyone from beginning business persons to those already established. Wear the T-shirts and ball caps everywhere and just listen as people wonder and ask where you got that great T-shirt.

Windows On The World

Shrink plastic that adheres to glass has been used for many years for holiday decorations. How many windows have you seen sporting scary stuff on Halloween, snowmen and Santas at Christmas and bunnies and Easter eggs at Easter? Well, why not letters? Why not spell out the name of the business and/or its website at home and the rear window of cars? Asking the owners of buildings just built but not rented yet or buildings with space for lease if you can use your letters in the windows until the space is rented, upon which removal would be required might help as well. Seeing your letters in windows might stimulate someone with a business of his own to rent the space, so you’d be helping the landlord or owner of the building to market his space.

Yard Signs

Have you ever noticed when you need something, such as a junk removal or the lawn mower repaired, there’s a yard sign advertising it just when you were looking for it? If you’ve been looking for a jazzercise class or learning to kickbox, there’s a yard sign for it. It works for them and it will work for the small business person, too. Just a white sign with your company name and address or your web address is all you need and they’ll run to check it out.

These are ideas for when the business is young and needs recognition. When revenue increases it will be time for Internet marketing and SEO, blogging and forums. Freebies in this area are all over the web and can be utilized by the small business owner. For now, get out there and visualize more clients.

March 22, 2011   No Comments

Benefits of Outsourcing

Small businesses often outsource various important functions—such as IT, payroll, and accounting—because that is the only option they have. However, it is important to realize that outsourcing provides many other benefits in addition to helping the business owner run a smooth operation. They include the following:

  • Outsourcing is a cost-cutting measure because it releases funds that can be used in some other investment in the business by changing fixed expenses into variable expenses. It also helps startups to forego large expenses at a time when they can least afford them. In addition, your company will attract more investors if you outsource because you will use more of your capital for activities that are income-producing.
  • Any small business that does not use outsourcing will have higher advertising, distribution, and research and development expenses, along with others, which causes them to raise prices. With this in mind, you may be ahead of competitors in your industry if you decide to take that step.
  • With outsourcing, there is no need to hire temporary employees for short-term projects and seasonal activities, and your staff will be free to devote all of their time to conducting regular business.
  • A reliable outsourcing company will have the resources you need to begin a project immediately. Without their help, you might spend a considerable amount of time trying to find the workers you need and giving them the necessary training to do the job. Also, if the project calls for a major investment of capital, that can result in further delays as well.
  • With the benefit of outsourcing, managers can focus on the company’s main mission and satisfying customers without having to worry about being distracted by the peripheral issues that vie for their time and attention
  • Outsourcing levels the playing field for small businesses, because it enables them to provide the support services that large corporations offer to their customers with expertise, efficiency, and impressive economies of scale.
  • Competition, market conditions, the state of the economy, technology and government regulations often change rapidly and create a certain element of risk for any business. A good outsource provider will assume the risk you are facing, and as a rule, they are quite adept at knowing how to lessen and avoid it. They should also provide systematic reports as a sign of their effectiveness and accountability.
  • Some functions that are part of your company only have to be done on a part-time basis. For example, if you need someone to spend a few days each month to take care of payroll, that would be the time to think about outsourcing the task, as opposed to paying your employee a full-time salary to do the job.

March 4, 2011   No Comments

Importance of Small Business Event Planning

Many small businesses are affiliated with larger business organizations that regularly offer the opportunity to promote products or services. For small businesses these can sometimes be cost-prohibitive. However, with good planning and creative design a small business can increase their visibility and revenue by producing their own small business event.

Introduce Your Business With An Open House Event
An open house event is a good way to introduce a small business to the local community. This can also work for small online businesses. There are no restrictions to the amount of promotion that can result in long-term vestiture in the business community online or off. Thanks to social networking there are now even broader opportunities for online businesses to go to the head of the line of competition by sponsoring these events.

Propping Up A Flagging Business Presence
Opening the doors of a small business online or off helps prop a flagging business presence. It’s a perfect way to quickly re-energize sales staff, prospective customers and the local community. It’s important for small businesses to be constantly conscious of the level of their visibility. Choose a specific theme that will catch attention quickly. The lure of the public to your small business event should be as magnetic as possible. This usually means offering a unique sales pitch or a bit of complimentary discounts or promotional items.

When A Small Business Event Goes Annual
If the small business event is well received, it can become an annual event the public will look forward to with much anticipation. The main hook to any small business event is advertising it to the point of maximum saturation. For a local event, this might mean utilizing strategically placed public billboards or making personal public announcements of the event at open public meetings if approved. Radio, TV and internet advertising is also important. Try to focus on the main target market where possible.

Chase Away The Small Business Blues
If business seems routine or somewhat robotic, it may be time of a change of pace. A small business sponsored event can be designed by one business which may also include several kindred vendors. Planning a small business event can help chase away the business blues with up close and personal contact with the public. Be sure to take notes during the event so that any new ideas that crop up can be reinforced with staff later.

Event Program
Rather than a cut and dry orientation of services or products, it may be a good idea to plan specific programs that act as steps to the final goal: familiarizing the public with your business. Programs to consider may be professional or experts who can support the basis for the need for your products or services. Make certain at least one part of the event programming includes introduction of staff. Sales prospects always like to know who they are dealing with. Keep the event casual, yet intentionally business-focused for best results.

March 1, 2011   2 Comments

Using the Loss Leader Principle- Build Your Presence

As a small business owner, you’re no doubt acquainted with the marketing principle of using a “loss leader” to draw additional potential customers to your business. Companies have continued to use this strategy of offering a free or extremely discounted item in order to entice shoppers, who will hopefully continue shopping at your establishment or on your website. The resulting increase in sales will, in most cases, not only make up for the “loss” you took on the initial offer, but also gain new customers and the potential for future sales.

This principle can be easily applied to online marketing and used to build a base of loyal customers for your website. Some initial effort will be required to set the campaign in motion, but the results will be well worth it.
For our purposes, we are going to apply the loss leader strategy to help you build or increase your email list.

You may have heard the often repeated Internet marketing chant, “The money is in the list.” That’s true because email can be one of your best marketing tools, but only if you have a substantial amount of subscribers. (What that amount is will depend on your own business goals and how many online customers per month you need to be successful.) And the best way to gain a quality list of subscribers is not by purchasing one, but by building it via your own website and social media marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter.

First you will need to decide what your offer will be. Free ebooks relevant to your market are very popular. If your industry is one in which potential customers typically do research before making a purchase, create an ebook (even a relatively brief one) or white paper with useful tips and information to help them make their decision. You can easily outsource this work by searching for qualified writers on sites like Elance.

If your product or service is relatively simple, you can offer a free trial or discount coupon to introduce them to your company. Set it up so that once they’ve opted in to your email newsletter and confirmed their email address, they will instantly receive the download link or coupon code. Welcome them to your newsletter and remind them to check their in-box weekly (or however often you plan to send emails) for future discounts and/or valuable tips.

Once you have built your list, keep your subscribers interested. Make sure your headlines catch the reader’s attention and make them want to open your email. And always provide something of value within.

Continue to engage with your customers through occasional surveys. Just remember to keep it brief and offer a coupon or other reward for participating. Your surveys will help you get to know your customers and better meet the needs of your target market.

Successful email marketing does take some time and effort, but it can also prove to be one of your company’s best marketing tools.

February 16, 2011   No Comments

Alternative Funding for the Small Business

Launching a new business entails comprehensive planning, unwavering ambition and implementing appropriate financial strategies. With determination and persistence, the aspiring entrepreneur will certainly succeed, however; maintaining and managing the small business can be a daunting task. Many small businesses, especially new businesses, will encounter monetary difficulties such as inadequate working capital and inability to pay vendors. A steady cash flow and obtainable funding is imperative to keep a business afloat and ensure its continuous growth. There are many financing options available for the small business when additional funding is essential. Since most small businesses will experience complications when trying to obtain funding through the conventional bank loan, many will opt for alternative funding options such as the Merchant Cash Advance, Invoice Discounting and Accounts Receivable Factoring.

In contrast to the traditional bank loan, alternate funding is generally an uncomplicated and effortless process. Whereas a bank loan approval will only be given for a business with superior credit history and prior lending experience, alternate funding providers will base their approval on other applicable factors. Authorization is provided promptly, which is imperative when immediate funding is necessary for the business to succeed.

Merchant Cash Advance

The Merchant Cash Advance Company will supply the firm with a one time loan to invest in the business. In return, the business authorizes the MCA company to withhold an agreed upon percentage amount of future credit card and/or debit card sales directly from the processor. Once the loan’s obligation is met, the automatic monthly retrievals cease. Small businesses benefit from the process of reimbursement as the payments go according to the business flow. If the business is advancing and sales are increasing, the retrieval rate will be expedited. If business is rather slack and there is a decline in sales, the rate of return will take longer. This flexibility gives the business the ability to focus on fortifying and improving, as opposed to being occupied with the demands of repaying a loan.

Accounts Receivable Factoring

Accounts Receivable Factoring enables the small business to obtain immediate cash to stabilize and further invest. The factoring provider will purchase the outstanding invoices from the business at a discounted rate, by this means taking full responsibility of payment collections. The business, in exchange, will acquire instant funds to increase its cash flow and facilitate expansion. The business will also be benefiting of having less time spent on accounts receivable handling and more effort put towards the firm’s development and growth.

Invoice Discounting

The Invoice Discounting Facility will lend the business funds against issued invoices awaiting payment. This option bridges the gap of when the invoices are initially issued and when payment is actually received. Unlike the factoring option, where the business will relinquish its accountability of payment collections, invoice discounting will allow the business to maintain constant interaction with clients and strengthen customer relations.

Many businesses rely on alternative funding options when financial assistance is crucial, especially during tough economic times. The accessibility and convenience of acquiring funds to increase its working capital and pursue new venues, motivates the small business to choose alternative funding when short-term loans are essential.

February 1, 2011   1 Comment

Easy SEO for Small Business Owners

Establishing a web presence is a vitally important marketing tool for most businesses, but it’s just the first step. Potential customers have to be able to find your site. That’s where SEO (Search Engine Optimization) comes into play. SEO is the process of giving search engines the right type of information to help them rank your site above the others jockeying for the top spot. These tips will give you a head start in becoming a strong contender.

SEO is based on keywords, the terms an individual enters into a search box when looking for information. So you’ll need to create a list of keywords or phrases that someone might use to find the services or products your business promotes. Be as specific as possible and keep in mind that you will need a separate set of keywords for every page in your website. It can be helpful to check out the sites of competitors who rank highly with the search engines and learn what keywords they use.

When you register a domain name for your business, consider including the most important keyword or phrase in the name. Selecting unique widgets.com is more likely to bring you targeted traffic than xyzmanufacturing.com. However, if people will look for your business by name, use it in the domain.

Page titles should also include keywords. If you already have a domain name that doesn’t include your key phrases, don’t despair. Descriptive, keyword-rich page titles can give any domain a boost. Your main page will display only your domain, but select meaningful titles for each subpage. Instead of www.yourbusiness.com/catalog.html, choose www.yourbusiness.com/buyblueitems.html.

Tucked away in the HTML code for any website are several more opportunities to add keywords. Visitors won’t see them, but the search engines will. Add key words to the alt tags for all images, making sure the entries are informative. The description and keyword metatags, while not carrying as much weight as they once did, provide additional spots for key phrases.

Content is arguably the most important component of any website. Great information is what visitors hope to find when they visit. So write content with your ideal customer in mind, but also write for the search engines. Include several instances of the relevant key phrases for each page and include them as headers and sub headers, as well. Don’t overdo it. Keep the flow natural and use keywords where they make sense within the flow.

If you plan to create your own site, it will all be up to you. But even if you hire a web designer, you should do your own keyword research. Then go a step further and provide your webmaster with optimized page titles, content, and image alt tags. While additional online marketing strategies may be needed to claim a first-page spot in the search results, a well optimized site is likely to reach that goal more quickly.

January 31, 2011   3 Comments