Small Business Building -- 7 Tips To Reconcile Dreams With Reality One of the themes that run through my teleclass, "Believe! How to Work With Your Beliefs to Grow a Prosperous and Meaningful Business," is the tension between the creative power of thought and resource-depleting habits of wishful thinking. I offer the following 7 Reality Checks to help you reconcile your dreams with reality so that you can build your dream into a thriving business. 1. In spite of your best intentions you will make mistakes. To the best of your ability, which may sometimes be slim, welcome these occasions as an opportunity to let go of perfectionism. Pause to review your offer to your clients. Are you positioning yourself as a know-it-all or as a responsive partner and learner? Are you putting yourself on a pedestal? Reflect on the distinctions among honesty, reliability, and perfection. Meditate on the difference between apology and accountability. Muse on the difference between significance and integrity. 2. Things go "wrong." I put "wrong" in quotes because stumbling blocks teach me things I need to know in order to serve and thrive. Hey, I'd rather learn without failing too, but however the lesson happens, there you are. Every time you look with humility and trust for your personal lesson, you are helping to create the possible dream. (Note: Sometimes the lesson is simply to let go of your idea of what should have happened. Lessons are not code for "There's something wrong with you.") 3. Not everyone wants or needs what you have. That's good news because odds are that you can't respond to every one anyway. Cultivate the courage, integrity, and clarity to listen deeply to prospective clients and decline to work with those whom you are not ideally suited to serve. Ask questions, especially scary ones (Can you afford this? Do you have any reservations? What will it take for this to be a good investment for you?). Ask first; sell later. Actually, when you do this, the selling takes care of itself. That's the premise behind coach Kendall SummerHawk's tape series, What to Say When You Hate to Sell. 4. Humbly welcome opportunities to profit. I did not have Kendall's tapes in mind when I wrote the item above, but they are a perfect fit, so I was happy to include the link to her work (in the article version placed on my site.). Will I profit if you buy them? Yes, I'll earn a 20% commission on every sale from that link. 5. Customers have bad days, too. Some times they're going to take it out on you. That doesn't mean you have to slink home licking your wounds, nor does it you get to strike back. It certainly doesn't mean you have to accept abuse. When you feel unfairly used, take a few deep breaths, notice what you wish were different, and remember that we're all human. Maybe it's time to do some boundary maintenance. Are you pretending that you need to please everyone or that everyone needs to like you in order for you to thrive? Look to yourself, not because you are to blame, but because you are the only one whose behavior you can manage. (Customers are always right where they are.) 6. Sometimes whole systems go wrong or you find out too late that a new project was not quite ready for prime time. (Just ask me.) At times like this you get to practice being available and responsive to customer needs while also taking care of yourself. Sometimes you won't (yet) know how to solve or resolve the problem and you may resent the time you're using to reassure clients instead of getting things on track. BREATHE. Learn to say, "I don't know and I do care and I will get back to you as soon as I can." Practice saying it with dignity, conviction, and patience. Take some time to wonder what you would need to believe in order for all of this to feel right and true. 7. Owning a business can be isolating. Many entrepreneurs are natural soloists. That doesn't mean we don't need or want support, though we may be the last to realize it. Spend some time wondering why other people might want you to thrive. Let your imagination run free as you speculate on what kinds of collaboration could work for you. Turn your complaints about networking into dreams of your ideal support system. What would your business look and feel like if you knew you did not have to have it all together because there was lots of help at hand? The secrets to creating the possible dream are all related to accepting what is, which includes accepting the support that is everywhere around you and accepting your own desire to build a business that adds real value in the world and allows you to thrive. Some days it will be easier than others to believe that reality and your dream can co-exist. But if you persist with humility, passion, and trust, your dream will teach you how it wants to be made real. I know because my own dream teaches me every day. When Is The Best Time To Incorporate Your Small Business? If you're a sole proprietor, perhaps you've considered incorporating your small business or self-employment activity. And so maybe you've been wondering, "When is the best time to incorporate?" From a legal standpoint, any time is the best time. The sooner you incorporate, the sooner you make the move from the world of unlimited liability to the world of limited liability. From a tax savings standpoint, any time is the best time. The sooner you incorporate, the sooner you will start putting more money in your own pocket and less in Uncle Sam's. But from a **tax reporting** standpoint, there is one time of year that stands out as best: January 1st. Why is that? Assuming you have a sole proprietorship (or other entity, such as a partnership) that is up and running as of January 1, and assuming you then incorporate that existing entity on any date other than January 1, you face the possibility of filing not one but two business income tax returns for that year. Here's an example to clarify this important point . . . Let's say you've been operating your sole proprietorship for a few years, and in early 2006 you decide to incorporate. In January you get around to starting the paperwork, but life gets in the way and you finally get it done in late February. By the time your state processes the Articles of Incorporation, the start date of your new corporation is March 1. For 2006, you must file a Schedule C for the period of January 1 through February 28, when your business was still a Sole Proprietorship. And you must also file a corporate income tax return for March 1 through December 31. Maybe that's no big deal. Maybe you enjoy filing one business income tax return so much, filing a second one doesn't bother you. And it may be that the inconvenience of filing two tax returns in 2006 is far outweighed by the legal and tax advantages of incorporating. Keep in mind, too, that 2006 will be the only year you have to do this "double duty". In 2007 you will only have to file the corporate income tax return. But if you are thinking about incorporating, the best time to do it, from a tax paperwork standpoint, is as of January 1. Only then do you have a "clean break" from the old sole proprietorship to the new corporation. This timing issue can also be relevant if you decide to make the switch late in the year. If the effective date of the incorporation is November 15, you will have to file a Schedule C for January 1 through November 14, and a corporate return for November 15 through December 31. In that scenario, you should ask yourself, "Do the benefits of incorporating outweigh the convenience of waiting until January 1?" So before you decide when to incorporate, take a moment to reflect on the tax reporting consequences of incorporating on January 1 vs. any other date. Sometimes it may make sense to wait a few weeks (as in the second example), and sometimes it makes sense to "do it now", especially when January 1 is nearby. How Come A Small Business Goes Over Better Numerous times folks who are curious in opening their own business make the err of going in direction over their heads and the entire matter easily becomes a huge mistake. If you've ever wondered why a small business seems to just go over much better then you are definitely in the right place because in this article I am hoping to provide you with some of the answers to questions such as that. A small business does have some wonderful benefits, there is absolutely no doubt about that and I have seen on many different occasions that someone's small business always seems to become much more of a success than any of the larger businesses in that same area. Many times when someone does choose to open a small business and it only turns out to be the biggest mistake of their life, it is simply because they chose to jump into something without first giving it a great deal of thought. Owning and managing a small business is much easier than trying to control every single aspect of any larger type of business and your stress levels will definitely be much lower if you could begin teaching yourself more about what it takes to make any business work. Maintaining a small business is really something that anyone of us could do but if you have not had the proper information given to you or have not spent enough time learning about every aspect of the business, you really are only setting yourself up for a huge financial disaster, which it surely did not have to be. Nobody goes into any type of business venture assuming that it is just all going to fail but most people that go into owning and managing any small business definitely has some little concerns about being able to keep it afloat. A small business can provide you with enough income that you would never need to work a second job for fears of not being able to afford everything. This is only possible however, for those of you who are truly committed to making the small business a huge success. For anybody out there that is maybe considering delving into some type of small business venture, please make sure that you first speak with other business owners in your area to find out some of the small details that could really make you or break you. Knowing the important key things that could set you up for success is really something very important and if you give others the opportunity to advise you on some of the aspects of your small business, chances are you will not have to stay up all night trying to figure out how in the world you could ever possibly make ends meet. It is up to you to really make this a success because it will not happen overnight, have patience and plenty of drive, with those two things you are more than likely going to be smiling all the way to the bank! Home based small business -- boon or a bane? If you are serious about the idea of making money through home based business then here are tips which are a beneficial tool for those who want to begin to work at home based business. A simple solution is to start with a business from home focused on the internet arena i.e. where the work is based on Internet. The market is teeming with numerous ideas of home based internet business launched by innumerable companies. Every single day new schemes come into the market under the garb of legitimate home based internet businesses. Sadly, most of these so called top home internet business are pure pyramid scams. Home based internet businesses can be a good opportunity provided you are serious about it. With increasing unemployment & rising costs, having a steady income has become a critical issue nowadays. This has a direct bearing not only on the security and well-being of their children but also on the security of their retirement days. If you work at home on internet, not only will you be able to earn a steady income but also be with your kids in their growing years. Moreover, the more you earn now, the more secure their future will be. In such circumstances, if you plan to start a home based internet business, it makes perfect sense. But the problem lies in how to select the right internet home based business opportunity? The different ideas of top home internet business often confuse the mind and stop us from taking a quick and concrete decision regarding the best home businesses. Then there are questions regarding the viability of these top home internet business opportunity. Then, you are also doubtful whether the income generated from the work at home on internet opportunity be able to replace that from a fulltime job? In addition to the reliability factor there is another question regarding the amount of investment. What would be the costs of starting work at home on internet business initiative? When the monetary return from top home internet businesses is uncertain, then there is no logic in starting one. Hence, selecting the right internet home based business is of critical importance. One such work at home on internet business opportunity is internet affiliate marketing. There are innumerable companies offering reliable affiliate programs. And in most cases, the affiliate fees are either free or a basic minimum. The benefits of these home based internet businesses are many. There are tensions regarding inventory build up, or issues such as commercial property, licenses and other related chores. You will be able to keep your total focus on how to market the product or business concept on your website. After selecting the right affiliate program to start your internet based home business, you should go about building your own website which will mark foray into home based small business. Do not leave your internet home based business midway and change to stable but permanent job. This is the mistake most people in the work at home on internet do. Also don't expect that you will become successful in your top internet home internet business in a short span of time. So stay put and works hard at your internet home business. There are various benefits associated with internet based home business. They also require a smaller investment than offline ones. But it requires equal dedication, ethics and hard work to make it successful in this competitive world. Where to Find the Perfect Business to Buy You dream of owning a business and experiencing its many benefits -- freedom, power, wealth, and fulfillment. But you don't want to start a business on your own. There's too much risk and uncertainty. Plus, you don't know what you would want to do that could be successful. Instead, you want to find an existing business or a proven business idea that you can operate successfully. But the million dollar question is: "Where do you find it?" There are several methods of finding a business to buy, and each has its own benefits. Here are some options to consider: Word of Mouth This method of finding the perfect business to buy is very much chance-based and consists of someone telling you about, or you driving around and seeing, a business that is for sale. Due to its nature, you are exposed to a very limited number of businesses. And unless you are very lucky that one of the few discovered in this fashion is exactly what you want, this method is not very effective at finding the perfect business to buy. Classified ads in the local newspaper The old-fashioned method of finding a business to buy is to look in the classified ads in the local newspaper and see if any catch your eye. This is a very difficult way to find a business to buy for several reasons. One, the number of businesses-for-sale listed in the classifieds is very small compared to the overall universe of businesses that are for sale at any time. Two, classified ads typically present you with only three lines of cryptic text to give you background on the business. And three, classifieds do not have a search function so you have to spend a lot of time looking through all of the classifieds to find those businesses that interest you. While classifieds can serve a purpose in buying a business, they are not very efficient or effective. Business Brokers Business brokers are typically very professional and knowledgeable in the art of buying and selling a business. Plus they are skilled at helping sellers sell their business. But therein lies the rub -- they are contractually obligated to help the seller sell the business. They are not obligated to you as the buyer. Therefore, brokers will usually look out for the seller's best interests first, which means they will often only show you businesses that they represent. This severely limits your exposure to the number of businesses that are available for sale at any one time, which makes it an inefficient method of finding the perfect business to buy. However, more common these days are Buyer Brokers. These business brokers represent you, the buyer, in your efforts to buy a business. This can be very effective because the broker knows how to navigate the process of buying a business. However, you often have to personally pay the broker to help you buy a business, which increases your costs. Therefore, it is often best to conduct a search for a business on your own, and then hire an attorney or experienced broker to guide you through the purchase process. But where do you search for businesses on your own? Online marketplaces Online marketplaces typically contain an exhaustive list of businesses that are for sale. Plus, it is easy to search these thousands of businesses instantly to find only the ones that meet your criteria. This makes online marketplaces the most effective, efficient and comprehensive method of finding the perfect business to buy. There are many online marketplaces to choose from, but they are far from equal. Some have inadequate search functions, others are just interested in collecting listing fees from business sellers, and others do not offer the buyer tools to help make your search process easier. As a result, selecting a good business-for-sale marketplace is critical in your search for finding the perfect business to buy. You want a site that allows you to search its listings for free, and has a strong search function to help you do it effectively. In addition, you want a site that allows you to save your searches and be alerted via email ("Email Alerts") anytime new businesses are listed that meet your search criteria. This saves you the time and effort of continuously searching sites everyday looking for the right business. Instead, the site does the work for you and presents you with businesses that are of interest to you. Finally, you want a site that puts its money where its mouth is, one that charges sellers based on performance and not on a pre-set monthly fee. These sites are dedicated to helping match business buyers with sellers while lowering the cost of selling a business. As a result, these sites are very effective for both buyers and sellers. Help Your Small Business Succeed With A Credit Card One of the many difficulties of starting a small business is gaining access to capital during the startup phase. With the large growth in small specialty businesses across the country, credit card companies are beginning to design special programs to help this new breed of business achieve success. For even those small businesses that have access to capital, the perks and benefits associated with small business credit card programs, can still be useful to help you compete more effectively in the marketplace. Below are just six of the many ways in which a small business credit card can help your business to operate more smoothly and improve your bottom line. Ease Your Cash Crunch A small business credit card can ease your business's cash woes. Through the development and implementation of a sound financial plan that utilizes a credit card you can guarantee that your business will always meet payroll, be able to purchase inventory on an as needed basis, and manage both seasonal and business fluctuations without depleting your cash reservoir. Another added advantage is the cash advance feature, which allows you to withdraw cash from an ATM to cover emergencies and other unanticipated expenses. Unlike a personal credit card, a business credit card also provides a business size credit line, which is substantially higher. Keep Track of Business ExpensesThrough the use of a credit card, you can, with little to no effort, separate your business expenses from your personal expenses. This allows for easy identification of tax deductions and filing of accurate income tax returns. Secure Multiple Cards You can also secure more than one card through small business credit card programs. This allows you to give employees the authority to make purchases while freeing up your schedule for more pressing issues. You can also do this with ease since you are also given the ability to set spending limits for different employees, which will further help you to control your expenses. Access Free Business Resources Anything free is good! Some credit card companies also provide clients with a wealth of resources to help manage cash flow and develop good record keeping procedures free of charge. Extensive reporting is conducted on both a monthly and bimonthly basis to help you track your expenses down to the penny. Additionally, free business checks and electronic funds transfers are also available. In addition to that, you can also access reports, data and advice on developing business and marketing plans, conducting market analysis, and pricing products through a company's web site. You can also increase your knowledge of other products and services like software programs that can help your day-to-day operations run more efficiently. Build Credit to Qualify for Larger LoansObtaining a credit card and using it wisely can also be a stepping-stone to help your business qualify and secure a loan with a major bank or venture capitalist firm. By establishing a good relationship and credit history with a company that also offers other products and services, it'll just be a matter of time before other cost-saving services are thrown your way. Perks and Rewards Perks and Reward Programs designed especially for small businesses are by far one of the best features of a small business credit card program. Small businesses can earn airline points and cash back rewards just like the big boys. Discounts are also available through select merchants like FedEx and Staples, which can result in huge cost savings for supplies and other operational expenses. Some companies also go an extra mile by providing rental car and lodging benefits. Grant Money For Small Business If you're frustrated by the conflicting and inaccurate information you've found regarding grant money for a small business, then don't worry. This article is your best source for the most accurate and up to date data. Read on and find out why! Many people today searching for small business grant money to start their own for profit business assume that grants are nothing more than "free money." Well, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but small business grant money is hardly "free money" at all. In fact, these grants are more like contracts with their own set of obligations and restrictions that you must comply with or risk suffering sanctions imposed by your funding resource. In the case of government grants, the rules are even stricter. One of the first places that people often turn to is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, which is where all listings of government grants approved by Congress are announced. The problem with this resource is that there are very few programs available for small businesses. These grants are usually awarded to deserving individuals or nonprofit organizations having some community-based project in mind. Rarely will you find a government grant awarded to help set up a for profit business. That is why when searching for a small business grant you should not turn only to the government for funding resources. A good source of grant money is the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). The AFP is considered the chief professional association for fundraisers. The association was formerly known as the National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NSFRE). Their website at AFPnet.org offers sections on ethics, public policy, publications (including AFP's online bookstore), professional advancement, local chapters, jobs, and youth in philanthropy (along with a member gateway/dashboard). Besides that, the AFP also provides a list of organizations (including their websites) that are among the top basic resources of grant money. Foremost on their list is the Foundation Center at FDNCenter.org, which publishes the revered Foundation Directory. Consider contracts. Government money can sometimes come in the form of contracts. "If you can demonstrate that your company can execute a budget line item, if you can shape part of your idea to what the government wants done for a particular project -- say something educational or construction-oriented -- if you can fill a need, you can compete," says Francie Ward, CEO of the Business Owner's Idea Cafe at BusinessOwnersIdeaCafe.com. Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has helped you and that you were able to find, through our research, the answers you were seeking. Do Small Businesses need websites? Should Small Businesses have a web presence? In one word, yes! The internet is the most effective marketing tools in existance nowadays, have the capability of reaching far more people than any leaflet drop or advertisement in the local paper ever will. Should you produce your own website? It all depends on your skills, if you have the ability to produce a site that looks good, then go ahead, it will save you money and will work wonders as a marketing tool. However if your skills are limited or non-existant then we'd say no. Why? No, not because we want your money (although we don't mind if you want to give it to us...), because if your site doesn't have a professional look to it, then it is going to reflect badly on your company's image. Do you need to spend lots of money? It really depends on the size of your website, if you're looking simply get a presence on the internet, then you can easily get something for around £250 if you take the time to look, if you're really getting into the idea of being online and effectively having your shop exist in cyberspace you're going to be looking at more money, however even then, there are many self-build options such as Ekmpowershop. What content do you need? This all depends on what you want from being online, if you want to sell online, have your products online is going to be very useful! If you're just looking to get your company online, then there are TWO elements that we believe are imperative: Information about your company How to contact you Without these two no-one is going to know who or what you are, with the former being your chance to sell yourself. Remember when people look at websites, if its well designed they won't know if they're dealing with a multi-national company or a one person organisation, this is your chance to play alongside the big boys!! What to do now? So you're convinced a website is the way to go? Excellent, this can only be of benefit to you! Now you've got to find a designer (there's one right here!!!), things to keep in mind when looking is what kind of style are you looking for, find some websites that you like then find some designers and see if they can produce something along that line! If they can, you're on the way to bringing into being what can be one of your best employees!! Choosing a Company Name When forming a limited company the name of the company can be an important decision. Some people may choose the first name that they think of and others may select a ready made company for speed or because they like a particular name. However, many businesses may prefer to select a company name that either clearly distinguishes itself from its competitors or contains something unique or personal. Company names can be chosen for different reasons. One of the most common ways of selecting a company name is to use something personal. A quick look through your local newspaper will probably introduce you to many personalised business names. Johnson Consulting Limited, T Smith & Son Limited, Stephens & Barley Limited are some fictional examples of what may be found. This may instantly make a company recognisable locally, it can be deemed as more personal by its customers, and often works well within geographical areas. However, it does little to tell new customers what your company does. A popular choice for a small business is to choose a name that is 'descriptive'. This tells prospective clients exactly what your company does. Examples of this may be to call your business The Window Company Limited, City IT Consultants Limited or The Advertising Agency Limited. Whilst this does serve to reinforce your primary business it offers little differentiation and may easily be adapted by competitors. A less personal option is to use a company name that is 'associative'. This type of company name helps to create an image or connection to your business activity. It is less direct than using a descriptive name but helps to position your company's name within the market through peoples understanding of what words mean. For example a flick through the Yellow Pages will offer plenty of examples of this. A hairdresser called Classic Cuts or a printer called Selectaprint Limited are examples of what may be found. These names offer some differentiation but may not ultimately set your company aside from its competitors. An alternative is to choose a company name that is 'freestanding'. These names are completely abstract and not related to the companies business activities. A fictional example may be to call your catering company Zedoc Limited. There are many popular brand names that illustrate this point. Consider, Kodak, Gillette, or Mars, these names will probably be instantly recognisable to you and conjure up a particular product or business. This is a good way of setting your company aside from the competition but it is important to consider the market that you operate in. Will your prospective clients know what your business is offering? Choosing a company name may be a simple process, but it is not uncommon for people to deliberate over names for quite some time. Whilst company names can, and often are, changed during the life of the company most people like to choose a name that they like from the outset. Therefore consider your market, how much you want to differentiate from your competitors and what your company name should say about your organisation. Once the decision is made focus on the important business of making your company a success. Can Your Small Business Afford Not to Have a Web Site? I've been accused of being opinionated by more than one person in my life, but try as I might to work on that part of my personality, it remains pretty much the same. So, in this article, I'm going to discuss my "opinion" on one reason why, even if your target market is strictly local, your small business can't afford not to have a web site. A few statistics from Statistics Canada to start us on our way-. In 2003, there were about 12 million households in Canada, and of those 8 million had regular access to the internet from work, home and/or school. Around 60% of the total households had a computer and internet access at home. Ok, so now we know how many households had access to the internet, but what were they using it for? Almost 90% used the internet for browsing, but more importantly for our discussion- 34% used the internet for purchasing goods and services, and by the way, that's almost double 1999 figures for purchasing goods and services on the internet. Industry Canada reports that in 2000, Canadian ecommerce sales were $7.2 billion, a whopping 73% increase over 1999 numbers. And no, it's not a typo, it really is $7.2 BILLION! I'd say there's a pattern brewing -- internet usage and sales are increasing rapidly. And, according to Industry Canada, Canada captured only about 4% of global e-commerce in 2000. Now, numbers may not be my strong suit, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that mean there was 180 billion dollars spent globally in ecommerce? Let's look for a moment to the United States. www.tamingthebeast.net reports statistics and forecasts collected during December 2001 -- 157million online users forecast to spend $47.8 billion in online retail revenue in 2002. By 2006, the forecast is 210 million users spending $130 billion in retail revenue. The numbers alone will probably convince many people to invest in a small business web site, particularly if they're in an industry where their target market isn't restricted to a purely local one. But, you say, my business is just a little local shop. Why should I get a web site for my small business? What good will the internet do me? I've heard that one before. In fact, the guy I've heard it from most is David. He's the guy with the auto shop in my article "I Don't Need a Business Plan -- Do I?" Long story short, his mother in law finally convinced him to write a business plan and his business is making some money, but in my opinion, it could do better with some marketing. I'd really like to convince him to spend some marketing dollars (he's a little cheap sometimes), but so far, no dice. Anyway I digress. Let's use David's business as an example. So, his business is in Saskatoon, a city with a population of just over 200,000 over five years of age and almost 90,000 households in 2001, according to Statistics Canada. Nearly every household has at least one vehicle in Saskatoon, so that means there are around 90,000 potential vehicle problems for David's shop. Of course, not every vehicle is going to break down in a year, and David isn't going to get all of them to use his shop, but you get the idea. And mind you, some of them will break down more than once. A certain 1988 Jeep YJ comes to mind: In Saskatoon, 72.5% of households had access to the internet in 2003, so around 65,000 households had internet access. And that's not including the rural population surrounding Saskatoon who also have vehicles that need a mechanic from time to time. Now, let's say David goes marketing-crazy and spends $2500 for his web site (which in my opinion is way too much money for a static small business web site). But it does no good to have a web site if it isn't found. Statistically, when people enter a word or phrase into a search engine, they'll stop looking after the third page. That means, that in order for your web site to be positioned so people will actually click on it, it needs to be in the top 30 web sites for your particular key words or phrases. So, lets assume that the $2500 David spent includes some good search engine optimization. His web site copywriter makes sure to research and find relevant keywords, and uses them well in his site. She adds his site to small business directories, and does more of her seo magic, and low and behold, three months in, David's site comes up #2 in a Google search for "auto repair Saskatoon". Now there are a potential 65,000 clients for David's business because they'll find it in a search engine. If he only reaches .1% of those 65,000 (not 1%, but point 1%), he could have 65 new clients, and you know your bill is going to be more than 100 bucks every time you take your car to the shop, but assuming just $100 for an average bill, he'll gross $6500, making that $2500 web site money well spent. I'd be willing to bet he'd make that much on maintenance alone, never mind repairs. Now that I think about it, I've never approached David about a web site from this angle. I think I might show him this article. He's a logical sort of guy, and it just might convince him to get one. Business Financing Guide (Simple) This business financing guide shows the items that you will need to prepare if you are planning to get loan from financial institution when you buy a business for sale. Getting financing can be easier with knowledge about the financing and with complete preparation of documents and statements in process of buying a business for sale. Step 1. Find a Business for sale at BusiMarket.com site for businesses for sale and commercial property for sale on the market. As soon as a property is found, make any necessary contacts to sellers. Step 2. Get Purchase and Sale AgreementGet the sale agreement from Brokers, attorneys, or Escrow companies. Step 3. Find a LenderFind a Loan Officer that will take care of your financing needs. Step 4. Prepare Required Documents - Purchase and Sale Agreement for the Business or Commercial Property, - Personal Financial Statement provided by the lender, - Income tax returns from both buyer and seller from the last three years - An up-to-date income statement - Resume from the buyer - Lease Agreement (if applies) - Assignment for Lease (if applies) Step 5. Finally, wait for the loan approval (usually takes 2-4 weeks) Since the financing process can be different on type of business, location, and buyer's situation. The information above is for information only and BusiMarket.com does not guarantee accuracy of information. Business Buying Guide -- Detail Business Buying Process First, You have to determining your investment. Usually minimum down payment made by the buyer is 30% of the purchase price. For example, if the business purchase price is $100,000 and loan amount is $70,000 (70%), then the buyer's down payment needs to be $30,000 (30%). Other possible expenses are inventories, supplies, escrow fee, license and permit fees, franchise transfer fee (if applies), etc. And then you have to set criteria of desired business. Which includes location of business, type of business, price range of business, desired income of business. After you decide your investment amount and criteria of business, you will need to find a right business that fit your needs. You can search businesses through an online business listing service site for businesses for sale, local newspapers, or through local business brokers or real estate agents. If you find a business that you want to purchase, you will need to evaluate the business through current owner's income information and your projected income for short term and long term. And then you need to make decision to purchase business or not. If the business is right for you, you need to write a very descriptive and detailed contract (Purchase and Sale Agreement). When you are writing an offer, you have to make sure the contract includes the followings: Your offering price, Initial deposit amount, financing terms, closing date. Other terms and conditions that can be added to the contract is buyer's loan approval, lease and lease approval from landlord, buyer to obtain all necessary licenses and permits, franchisor's approval of ownership transfer, the buyer's Satisfaction of books and records, closing cost allocation, buyer training session, business equipment and fixtures in good working condition, inventories and supplies amount, seller's agreement not to compete, etc. After you finish writing an offer, you need to present your offer to seller. Negotiate the price, terms, and conditions and settle with final price and terms and condition. Now you will need to allocate the purchase price of business that you are buying. After you done purchase price allocation, you will need to apply for loan, license and permits. and then you will need to obtain a lease or sublease. You will need to make sure you obtain the lease or get an approval of lease assignment before close of escrow no matter what happened. And then on or the day before the closing date, you will need to review the equipment list that is provided at the time of the acceptance of the Purchase and Sale agreement and buy inventories and supplies. And then you can do the closing on the closing date. Are You Thinking Too Small and Dooming Your Small Business To Failure? One problem that many small business owners run into is simply thinking too small. I often have readers writing to me asking for helping getting their business ideas off the ground. I also often hear from folks who have run their small businesses into the ground. There are five key areas where you can think too small -- and doom your business to failure. Niche Too Small Is your niche too small? Finding a small market to target with your business is key to success, but sometimes people narrow their niche too much. While doggy dental products could be a wonderful niche (as almost any dog owner can attest) you could even narrow your focus down to a certain type of dog (such as lap dogs) but going for one specific breed would be taking it too far. Target Market Too Small Is your target market too small? If you are looking only at one community or small geographic region then you may well doom your product to failure. It is far too easy to saturate a small market and it is far too easy for any marketing mistakes to end your campaign before it gets off the ground. In today's economy with the availability of global marketing you need to think big when you are planning your target market. Budget Too Small Is your budget too small? You don't need a million dollar advertising budget but you should have some seed money to get your business and its marketing campaign off the ground. It is possible to build a business from nothing but it is also a lot more difficult and you might find yourself making some mistakes that cost you a lot more down the road than putting a little money up front. Schedule Too Small Is your schedule too small? Do you have enough time to devote to your business? Starting, running, and growing a business takes time. Some people get swept up in the planning and dreaming stages and never really start their business. Other people start before they have completely planned everything out and quickly get mired down by unexpected difficulties. While others do everything right in the planning and startup but once the business is running they get overwhelmed by day-to-day business and never think aobut ways to improve and grow their business. Mind Too Small Is your mind too small? You need to open up your mind's eye to continually seek new opportunities to find new customers, to find new potential partners, to find new ideas for products, and to find new opportunities for marketing. Flexibility and adaptability are key to surival in today's business climate and you always need to have new ideas cooking to grow and expand your market and your business. This means raising your head up out of the trenches once in a while. Yes, you might need to dodge the occasional missile lobbed your way but this is the only way to see those opportunities heading your way. If you do your best to avoid these five not-so-small mistakes then you will be on your way to small business success. 5 Simple Steps to Small Business Success on the Internet! For years, the website design market used to fall into three separate entities for website design and development: (i) graphics and animation studios, specializing in custom graphic design and creative animations, (ii) website marketing/promotion firms, (iii) Web programming companies specializing in database-driven website development. Nowadays, however, you get to see a fusion of these three entities in several dynamic Web Development and Promotion companies operating from any part of the globe. These web design, development and web promotion firms are virtually allrounders that cater to a diverse range of clientele, include those coming up for creative web design, web databases CRM / ERP as well as for SEO (search engine optimization) needs. Most small business firms all over the world heavily rely on the services of such web development firms as they usually cater to small business website design by providing web based marketing methods that small companies can afford due to small budgets. Depending on the effectiveness of such web-based marketing, clients often see incredible successful results from clicks to conversion. There are some case studies which show that utilizing their marketing equation; some sites have gone from 10 leads a month to 300 leads. However, to achieve this is easier said than done. Web marketing firms that create a full plan for their clients using both the strategic and tactical methods crafted by specialists/consultants in turn are able to give small or large businesses increased sales. After all, that is the reason one can zero down on in order to be in a business, right? To have more sales and offer value. Therefore, the objective behind any web development or website promotion project is to create a unique selling proposition through your website that can set you apart from your competition so your customers should only think of doing business with you, regardless of price. Small business firms today look forward to the professional creative website design and strategic web development and web promotion companies for the simple reason that they want their site to have the look and usability of a Fortune 500 company site without having to spend huge bucks for it. Yes, it is definitely considered a plus if the website is designed as a tactical marketing tool that aims to engage and educate their clients in turn. And most of these businesses have a concern in their minds: can their web site provide a means to gather analytical data for them to offer better service for all? Yes, definitely they can. However, for this, optimal, effective website design strategies need to be incorporated. In a word, small business clients should be enriched with at least some of these features in order to fetch more conversions: * Cutting-edge small business website design, tailor-made to provide broad market exposure of the products and services to potential clients. * Highly scalable digital website designs, aimed at boosting up the growth and realization of the full perspective of the small business houses. * Small business website design strategies including full-featured e-commerce solutions, to help these businesses deploy cost-effective, powerful e-commerce stores. * Customized search engine optimization services, based upon individual needs and goals. However, there are umpteen so-called 'cheap, quick' solution-providers, and any small business firm must think twice before taking the plunge with them. Ideally, one should always trust a professional web development firm that gathers relevant information about their clients' business through hours of discussion, clear up ideas about the requirement, nature and goal of the clients' business. Based on these details, experienced, skilled web designers and developers carry out extensive research to find out the best small business website solution. On the other hand, creative, innovative content writers create specific and unique content for small business website requirements, thereby enhancing business prospects. Finally, website maintenance and search engine optimization techniques that comprise scientifically proven techniques available at a competitive price are sure to give your business a boost. Flash Presentation, Multimedia Presentation, Multi-lingual website development and E-Commerce integration solutions complement these customized website solutions for brightening the online and even the offline image of small business firms. The Five Steps to Success: To ensure success of your small business through a unique website presentation, it is important that you develop a five-step process for creating websites that meet your customer's goals. Whether it is a small business firm eager to generate leads, sell online, provide information about their services, connect their vendors to their company electronically, or start an entirely new kind of service, this five-step process not only takes them from concept to completion, but also is the trademark of any Internet development company. Consulting: Every website starts with an idea. Perhaps you've been thinking about developing a website, or redesigning your existing site. At the consulting stage, a professional website development firm would strive to clear all doubts about the clients' requirements. Consultation for this usually comes free in case of small to medium-sized businesses. Website Design: After the initial consultation, the website development firm solidifies the clients' ideas by creating a blueprint for their site by employing something they call "Strategic Design". Website Development: The website development project is then handled by a creator' hive, composed of specialists who handle their own respective pieces of the site development. Remember, for successful website development, it is necessary to be handled by a versatile team of expert graphic artists, content writers, programmers, database specialists and technical personnel. This ensures that a qualified professional handles each task of the given project. Web Hosting: Since websites are an intricate interplay of graphics, text, programming and computer resources, building your site on a rock-solid web hosting foundation is critical to its marketing success. Website Maintenance: Once the site is available to the public, it must be maintained with the help of ongoing updates and continued development to the site so that they don't give clients/visitors of the site a chance to complain about its quality and content. Your Small Business Web Site A web site is a crucial ingredient of your marketing strategy because it can widen your target market to include anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. Almost 60% of Canadians had access to the internet at home in 2003, and around 8 million had regular access to the internet from somewhere, either at home, at work or at school. And that's just in Canada. Ecommerce sales from Canada were $7.2 billion, and we only captured 4% of the global ecommerce market! So, how can you reach some of those internet surfers, and how can you capture some of that $7.2 billion spent in ecommerce? First, you build itThe first step is designing your website. If your company already has business cards and letterhead, it's best to design your website around them. A matching corporate identity and website helps with branding. I like uncomplicated websites, with a simple layout and easy navigation. A nice, simple layout, with good graphics, balanced look and good color combinations is my #1 goal when designing a small business web site. Remember to use graphics sparingly and to optimize them for your website because internet surfers are impatient. If your page loads too slowly, they'll leave. Navigation should be easy to find and to use, and it should be consistent from page to page. I've left more than one site frustrated because I couldn't easily find their navigation. Small business web sites aren't static. They evolve. You need to start somewhere, and starting with an introductory web site is probably easiest. All you really need to start is five pages. You can always add pages later. The important thing is to just do it -- take the plunge and get it out there. Your five pages could include an index, or home page, about us, services, contact and a sitemap. The index page is your landing page. Typically its design is a little more detailed than the others, but it doesn't have to be that way. I like to use CSS (cascading style sheets) for designing because it's simply easier to build a web site and to edit its layout with CSS rather than just HTML (hypertext markup language) alone. A change on a CSS sheet changes all the pages on your site at once. Content is king Once your site is designed, you'll want to start thinking about content. Design is very important, but it does little good to have a beautiful site without high-quality content. Your small business home page introduces you and your company -- who you are and what you do. The about us page is usually used to give more detail than the home page about who you are, and your services page gives more detail about what you do. You might wonder why you'd "waste" a page on a sitemap since you only have 5 pages, but sitemaps help search engines find all the pages in your site. As far as content goes, more is better, up to a point. Your pages should be content rich and informative, but they also need to be relevant to your small business. If your visitor can't figure out what your web site is about in just a few seconds, they may leave. The internet was at first strictly informational, and that's how it remains today. Several times people have tried experiments using copywriting similar to direct mail sales letters, but they've all failed. It seems as if people surf the internet more for information than anything else. Knowing this will help you write pages people will want to read. Attracting visitorsYou could follow your instinct and just start writing, but wait. There's research you must do first, or your web site simply won't be high enough in searches to be found. Search engine optimization is far too big a subject to cover in this short article, but among other things, search engines find your pages based on keywords. So, pretend for a moment that you're on the other side of the desk. If you were a customer of your own business, what words or phrases would you use to search for your product or service? Ask friends and neighbors how they'd search for your product or services. When you've come up with a few, check them out on a keyword suggestions tool. You can also use that tool to suggest similar words and phrases. Then find out how many results there would be if you searched for that term. What you want to do next is narrow down your choices to the words or phrases that are searched for the most, but have the fewest results. Remember that people generally don't look beyond the first three pages for any search term, so if you're not in the top three pages, your business is not likely to be found at all. If there are millions of results for your phrase, you might simply need to make it more specific. For example, let's say you have a small business consulting company that specializes in communication for small business. Using "communication" as a search term is nearly pointless because there are almost 2 billion results for that word. But, there are only 974 results for "small business communication". Much better, but how often is that searched for? According to WordTracker, it's searched for 10 times a day. Not bad, but I think we can do better. How about "small business consulting"? That's searched for 261 times a day, and there are 373,000 results. That could be the best primary phrase for a small business communication consulting company. What you want to do, is write your content around those words and phrases. You don't want or need very many -- three or four are plenty. Getting them to come back again and againGetting visitors to come back to your site again and again is relatively simple. Keep your content fresh and lively, make sure it's informative, and add to it often. I hope you decide your small business needs a web site. It's the best way I know how to reach a wider target audience with a relatively small investment. Your Small Business May Be At Risk Unless You Have A Security and Recovery Plan Don't think your small business is at risk? Think again. Whether you realize it or not, your business has valuable information and assets that probably are not protected right now. Your business likely has confidential client information, proprietary business knowledge or just internal knowledge that you wouldn't want to be exposed to criminals or competitors. The loss of this information could have a devastating impact to your business. While business insurance is an important part of your protection, it cannot protect clients from identity theft or your business from unscrupulous employees or competitors. No matter how big or small, your business needs to have a security and recovery plan in place that determines what risks you have, helps protect against those risks and sets plans in place to handle the most likely types of losses you may experience. Your plan should also look at the both the 'physical' and the 'virtual' aspects of your business. Start by considering the types of risks to which your business may be vulnerable. What if your business information was lost or stolen? Do you have customer files or records, tax receipts, bank statements, business plans, customer work products? Next, consider the physical aspects of your business that may be vulnerable. Do you have unique office equipment, inventory, computers or trade specific tools? Finally, look at how you do business. Do you rely on technology, the internet or employees with unique skills? Does your business model depend on repeatable processes that are unique to your business? Now, consider what would happen to your business if these parts of your business were lost, destroyed or stolen. Could you continue operating if you lost your client files? Could you be sued by customers if their personal information was exposed? Could you be the target of negative publicity? Could your competitors benefit if they gained access to the information? What if you lost email access for a day? What if that key employee suddenly left for another job? What if your office space caught fire or was flooded? Your security and recovery plan should put in place the safeguards and policies and procedures to prevent some of these risks and the potential to negatively impact your business. Physical access to buildings is relatively easy to control although most small business have little more than a lock on the front door. Should you consider locking file drawers? Is inventory controlled? Does every employee have access, even to things that are not part of his or her job? Could a disgruntled or fired employee return to the workspace after hours with an extra key copy? Your plan should consider how to protect the 'virtual' parts of your business also. Do you have backups of any important files? Do you have passwords, account numbers and other 'keys' securely guarded? Do your computers have virus and firewall protection and is it up-to-date? Do you have internet and email usage policies in place to protect your employees form harassment charges? What about remote employees or workers who 'take work home?' In today's highly mobile environment vital business information can now be easily accessed outside of your physical controls? Do your employees know how to safeguard laptops, cell phones, flash drives or even print outs of business information once they leave your workspace? What if a laptop is stolen from a worker's car or home or hotel room? Do you have a backup of the data that was on the laptop? What if your employees are accessing your information from a coffee shop Wi-Fi? How do you know if your clients and business are protected? Lastly, your security and recovery plan should consider how you would handle the most likely losses. For instance, if the computer that holds all your sales information crashes, you should probably have a plan to immediately restore that information from a backup. Where is the backup tape or disk kept? Who has access to it and most importantly, who knows how to restore a backup? If you office is flooded, how quickly can you relocate? Can some employees work from home or other remote locations temporarily? If client information is stolen, do you have a way to contact them? Most small business owners likely have taken first steps like purchasing insurance and putting locks on the front door. Unfortunately, few have taken the time to really understand the potential risks to their business. Taking the time now to at least put together an informal plan will go a long way in the event of a real disaster or other loss. Even the best planning obviously won't protect against all disasters but it can certainly lessen the impact to your business once one occurs. Work From Home for Dollars There are over 500 online companies offering money for people who want to work from home doing surveys and earn a full-time income. Beware of such sites that promise you riches for nothing; they're a scam. While there are some legitimate sites that pay a few dollars to take a ten minute survey, there are others that are not legitimate. Many of these sites simply exist to gather your personal information and sell it to telemarketing companies. A few of them are downright scams that require a "sign-up" fee in exchange for the privilege of working from home. One of the sites I've seen across is jobslover.com. This site not only offers you "up to $75 an hour" for completing surveys in the privacy of your own home, it also advertises just about every "work from home" scam there is. Most of these schemes are aimed at women who are trying to make a few extra dollars while staying home with the kids. I've written many articles about paid surveys and was happy to find that there are some legitimate companies out there on the internet. But I'm halfway intelligent and can usually smell a scam from a mile away (two miles on a clear day). And as soon as I clicked on jobslover.com, the stench overwhelmed me. P.T. Barnum said there is a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately, he was spot on in his assessment of human nature. Sadly, there are many predators out there who are only too glad to take someone's hard-earned money with the promise of a "get rich quick" scheme. Jobslover is only too glad to hook you up with paid surveys that promise to pay $5-$75 an hour. The site will direct you to a survey site where you can participate in surveys. What Jobslover (dot) com doesn't tell you is that these sites can be accessed by any individual with internet experience without paying a dime. In addition to offering "opportunity" for paid surveys, Jobslover.com offers other "opportunities" such as "typing from home," "medical transcription from home," "data entry from home" work at home and other schemes aimed mostly at uneducated women. All of these "golden opportunities" are good for any one who wants to work from home for easy money making at home. Another way for making money and building your home based business is Adsenselover (dot) com. This is the amazing money making package for online money making with Google Adsense Program. It automatically generate money day and night money for you. It's a best way to build your adsense wealth empire business on internet. People who have no time to spare for paid survey they can start their automate business with Adsenselover's Adsense Wealth Empire Guide to make money at home. Adsenselover provides every tool and top paying adsense ready sites package and lots of free ebooks and software set to start your own home based internet business. The site is merely a money making portal. Of all the sites on the internet I've investigated while researching this topic, this is the worst. I implore anyone who is interested in participating in paid surveys to beware of the following: - Do not give out your credit card number, social security number or bank information to any online site. - Beware of any site that promises "thousands of dollars a month" for working from home. I've done a lot of research into paid surveys; if it were that easy, no one would work outside the home. - Do not pay "upfront" for the privilege of doing a survey. Legitimate companies will not ask for a fee. - Paid surveys are a way to make supplemental income; not a living. You can expect to make maybe $200 a month doing this. - Before signing up for any online survey site, do a little bit of research. The honest ones will tell you that you won't make a lot of money and will have stringent privacy policies. - Do not, under any circumstances, ever participate in any survey about health insurance. I made this mistake once and now get about five calls a day from people trying to sell me health insurance. - If you are participating in a survey and are directed to another website, do not feel you have to answer any questions on that site. Many times there will be "fine print" that charges your telephone number for trying a product. In addition to this, keep close tabs on your telephone bill. - Each time you log on to your computer, clear your cookies. Participating in paid surveys can be a fun way to earn a few extra dollars, gift cards or discount certificates. Do not expect to "get rich" doing this. And under no circumstances ever pay for the "privilege" of doing a surve Will Your Small Business Have A Happy Ending? There is no question that as a small business owner you have persevered and worked hard, dedicating your life to the success of your company. That being said, don't you think a company you put all of your energies into, deserves the chance at having a happy ending? Have you considered the impact your death, disability, retirement, or even divorce could have on your small business ? If you are the owner of a small business it is time for you to stop thinking of only what is happening now, and start focusing on what could happen in the future. Therefore, you need to put your priorities into perspective by protecting yourself and your business with a succession plan. A business succession plan is what you need to ensure that your business has a happy ending by remaining secure, regardless of what may happen in the future. In particular, a succession plan allows your business the chance to be able to stand up to any challenges that may occur along the way. For instance, certain setbacks that you might experience may be entirely beyond your control such as divorce, disability, departure and death. But with a business succession plan you have the chance, as a small business owner, to ensure that regardless of what may happen to you, your business will be protected. The following are a few aspects you should to take into consideration when creating a business succession plan for you small business: How to Begin the Succession Planning -- Since you need to make choices before you can really begin achieving your succession planning goal, you must first think about your long term business objectives and ask yourself important questions such as: * Will I sell my small business? * Should I set up a plan that allows me to transfer my business to one of my business associates or a family member? * Does my business have public potential? Of course, business succession planning begins with much more than simply deciding who you will be giving your business to in the event that you can no longer run your company, or wish to sell it. Additionally, succession planning is about keeping your small business afloat and successful to ensure that your absence will not devastate your company. Therefore, in order to maintain future control of your business, you will need to begin your succession planning by making choices that will concern things such as: * ownership objectives * asset protection planning * taxation and transaction planning * estate planning You will want to keep in mind, however, that due to the fact that every action you take with succession planning will result in a reaction, you will require the assistance of experienced experts when developing your plan. Understand the Dollars and "Sense" of Business Succession Planning - Like any type of business preparation, your business succession plan needs to be orderly and handled carefully if you don't want to suffer the consequences of financial losses -- or worse -- the loss of your small business. That being the case, you need to know exactly what you are dealing with, and how you can achieve the most of your planning. The one mistake you will not want to make is to overlook your business finances. You can help keep your business secure by properly using the following, and more, in your succession planning before problems occur: * Life insurance * Disability insurance * Annuities Furthermore, you will find that with an orderly succession plan, you will be avoiding the possibility of your business having to be sold to pay off the estate tax, in the event of yours or (if you have one) your partner's death. It is no secret that estate taxes can claim up to 55% of an estate that is taxable, which is no mystery why so many businesses fall into debt, become bankrupt, or are sold due to the death of the owner or partner. In addition, another aspect that needs to be considered is that clients are most likely to do business with other businesses after the owner or partner is deceased. However with the proper succession plan, your business should be able to maintain any regular clients -- or if not -- it will be better equipped to survive the possible drop in assets if a slow period should follow. Know How to Write Your Happy Ending Remember, when all is said and done, the outcome of your succession plan depends entirely on the choices you make regarding the future of your small business. It is imperative that you take the time to make the best choices that will allow you to implement a succession plan, which keeps you in control of the outcome that involves the transfer of your company. By knowing how to ensure the prosperity of your business future with a succession plan, is how you will write your happy ending. Why Your Small Business Needs a Corporate Identity Package If you're like many small business owners, you might be wondering just what a corporate identity package is. And if you already know what it is, you might be wondering why your small business would need one. After all, you're just a small business, not one of those big corporations. What's in it for you?Just as the name implies, a corporate identity package identifies your company to potential clients, suppliers and the general public. It includes your business name, small business logo, your logotype (just a fancy way of saying how things are placed, which font you use, spacing, and other things like that) your motto or company slogan, and associated printed material-- your business card, and letterhead, envelope and forms. When you started your small business, you might have dreamed of becoming more than just another small business. Maybe you even dreamed about becoming a big business some time in the future. And even if you're a completely practical entrepreneur and didn't have those dreams, you need to attract customers in order to keep your small business open. A corporate identity package can help you do that. Write a couple of big corporations, ask a question and request a business card. They'll send your answer on their letterhead, in their company envelopes, and include a company business card. If you take a moment or two to look at big corporations' identity packages, you'll soon notice a few important things in common. Their corporate identity package looks professional. What makes a big corporation look professional? I think one key is simplicity. Generally, a large corporation has a simple symbol or even just graphically represents their name as their logo. Take the Coca-cola logo for example. Or Toyota. Or Cameco Corporation. They're all very simple. When you look at their corporate identity package, you see quality. They use only high quality printing services and paper. Sure, that's going to cost a little more, but it'll be worth it in the end because its an integral representation of your small business' image. You could print your corporate identity package yourself using your home printer, lightweight paper and business card templates, but how is that going to look? Will that produce the professional image you're after? Their logotype is consistent. Big businesses use exactly the same color for their logo and their background every time. They use consistent fonts. Their slogan for example, would consistently be in Times New Roman, never a different font or even a similar font, but exactly the same font, and always in the same proportion to the logo. Spacing is consistent. Spacing between letters and between lines is also always exactly the same proportion. Their secret is designing in vector form so their logo can be enlarged or reduced without changing proportion. Their corporate identity package matches exactly. Their letterhead, envelopes, business cards all match. And if you ordered something from them, the invoice and the statement you'd get at the end of the month would match too. Perfectly. Here's another reason to take a little time to look at big corporations' identity packages: you can use what they do to create an identity for your own small business. What they do works, and they do big business, so if you want to do big business too, why reinvent the wheel? Copy what they've done. No, I don't mean you should copy another company's logo. Just copy the way they've done things. Take their ideas and use them. You probably don't have the luxury of spending the amount of dollars a big corporation does on their identity. In fact, they sometimes spend millions on their corporate identity. So how do you get a professional look at a small business price? You can do it yourself or you can hire a design professional to do it for you, sometimes at minimal cost, or even free. Here's one idea. You can sometimes find good student graphic designers who'll design your logo for you in exchange for allowing them to put it in their portfolio. In any case, if they do charge you a fee, it will be a whole lot less than what a professional graphic designer would charge. Besides it'll feel good to be helping a "poor student". So, why should you have a small business identity package? What's in it for you? If you do it right; if you have a corporate identity package that looks professional, is of high quality, has a consistent logotype, and matches perfectly, you're going to look just like the big guys even if you're the smallest business in town. And if you look like the big guys, you just might have a chance to play with the big guys. And what if, just what if, your corporate identity package helped you, even just a little, to realize the dream you had of someday owning a big business when you started your small business? Why You Should Never Operate Any Business as a Sole Proprietor One of the primary attractions of being an entrepreneur is being that feeling of being "independent". Defining yourself as an independent entrepreneur does not settle the question, though, of how you should organize and operate your business. All too often new freelancers assume that being independent means being a "sole proprietor." In the United States, that means that you simply operate your business as your alter ego -- you might set up a separate bank account, but you basically operate your business as an extension of yourself. You declare your business earnings on Schedule C of your 1040 and file your business taxes as part of your personal tax return. Other countries have similar systems -- in France, for example, translators will more often that not operate as independent members of the "professions liberales". There is no question that operating a sole proprietorship is the easiest, simplest way to start a business. But, no matter what the jurisdiction in which you operate, this is not the way you should operate your business--even just to "get started". Taking any other option, which would involve establishing a legal entity separate from yourself -- such as a corporation or limited liability company--is infinitely preferable to operating your business as a sole proprietor. You see, if we were to list the advantages of being a sole proprietor, we would come to the end of the list very quickly. It's simple, yes. It's less expensive, right? Well, no. In fact, the ease of being a sole proprietor gives us our first clue as to why we should should not be interested in it. Something that is so easy to do is not likely to bear generous rewards. In business, as in life in general, what is worth having generally takes some effort. In the case of the sole proprietorship, what is apparently cost-free is actually potentially extremely costly. Indeed, some experts have argued that the sole proprietorship is so dangerous that it ought to be outlawed! I don't belive that this is an exaggeration. If you're starting your own business, you've probably saved up some money to get started. It takes a while to build a client base, and in the early years, the risks of failure are great. If you have not taken the trouble to structure your business properly by setting up a separate legal entity, you risk losing not only the capital you have invested into the business but everything you own personally as well. I recall that when I was first getting started as a freelance translator, I received a job offer from a translation agency in Paris. When I looked up this agency on the payment practice lists to which I had subscribed, I was shocked to learned that the agency was suing a freelancer, claiming that through his alleged "negligence", the translator had caused the agency to lose a large account. The sum involved was over 20,000 euros. Now, if this agency were awarded a judgment and the translator were operating his business as a sole proprietor, if he did not have the 20,000 euros in his business bank account, the judgment creditor (the agency) could attach the translator's personal assets, such as his personal savings, his automobile, and even his family's residence to satisfy the judgment! If the translator had set up his business as a corporation or LLC, his liability would be limited to whatever resources he had in his corporation's or LLC's bank account and the company's other assets. If these corporate assets failed to satisfy the judgment, the agency would be simply out of luck--it could not touch any of the translator's personal assets. Now, lest you think that this sort of thing will not happen to you, consider the statistics. One of out every four people in the United States is sued, and one out of every five of those lawsuits causes devastating loss. About 2/3 of those in attendance at a seminar I attended recently raised their hands when asked if they'd been sued. And remember, the incident I mentioned above involved a French agency. This *can* happen to you, and you must have structured your business properly *before* any lawsuit or threat of a lawsuit arises to be protected. Besides this key feature of asset protection, you will gain many other excellent advantages by setting up your business as a separate legal entity: 1. You will have considerably more tax advantages. For example, as a sole proprietor you can deduct only 25% of the premiums you pay for health insurance; but your corporation can deduct 100% of such costs. 2. You will be able to split income. If you have a C corporation, you could arrange to receive income through several different entities and reduce your tax liability to the lowest tax bracket. 3. You will be able to use your entity to establish a retirement plan for yourself and your employees. 4. You may be able to reduce social security tax(FICA)liability significantly. 5. If you do business exclusively with clients outside your home state, you could benefit additionally by setting up a Nevada corporation. Nevada not only has no state income tax on corporate profits, it also offers added asset protection through enhanced privacy to both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. residents. "But isn't it complicated and expensive to set up a corporation?" I am often asked. The short answer to this question is "No." You can set up a corporation with you yourself as the directors and officers. And with all the resources we have available through the web, it has never been easier and more economical to get your corporation or LLC set up correctly. So don't double and triple your risk and long term costs needlessly. Just don't do it! Get the information you need to get your business set up correctly today. Who Needs a Business Advisor? The simple answer to the seemingly complex question of "Who needs a business advisor?" is: everyone responsible for operating a business. That's right. The Fortune 50 CEO to the one-person show needs an advisor. The CEO of a public company has mentors as well as a board of directors to turn to. They often don't have a choice of who their advisors are but small business owners do. Unfortunately, with this choice of advisors comes another choice that is often made instead. That choice is to not get any help at all. Not getting any help at all is very often the cause of the business failure statistics we hear so much about. The small business owner will often claim that they don't have the time or money for an advisor. Think about that comment. How can you not have the money to get help from someone that can potentially save or make you more money since you obviously are not getting it done on your own? Or how about that time you are lacking? Maybe if that owner sat down for an hour with an advisor, they would be able to see why they don't have time and do something about it with the help of someone who has already been in those shoes. A coach or advisor gives to small business owners something most of them don't have; a sounding board and a board of directors to turn to for advice. These are two great resources to use when trying to avoid "trial and error" decisions and processes. I'm not knocking trial and error as the way to learn things. I've personally used that method and faired well in many cases. But that is a case-by-case basis, not for on-going daily concerns. Don't forget that this method is also very costly and time consuming. Why not ask someone who has probably already faced the problem? What many business owners do not realize is that they rarely go through any trials and tribulations that someone else has never dealt with. Not to mention that about 70-75% of their business is the same as every other business including HR, finances, sales, marketing and funding. The other 25-30% is industry specific. Small to mid sized business owners take away much more from an advisor than big businesses. This, if for no other reason, is the case because the smaller companies have owners that wear a lot of hats. Many of those hats take time away from the things the owner actually needs to make a priority to see their company succeed. Things they should be doing that they don't have time to get to or things they are taking care of that they have no experience in doing. These situations take away from them doing what they do best. That's a problem. The question now is how to find an advisor. There are many types of business advisors out there. Some are purely "coaches" and others are true developers and implementers that will roll up their sleeves with you when asked to. It's up to you to pick the type of person you want or need. Here are a few things to think about: * Do they click with your personality? There are many good advisors out there but if they don't click with you as a "business friend", don't bother with them because you will end up fighting them even when you agree on the advice. * Have they owned a small business before? Gray hair does not equal business ownership knowledge. I promise you that the ex-CEO or Senior manager from a huge company knows very little about successfully operating a small business. These are two significantly different worlds. * Don't worry if a potential advisor doesn't know your specific industry. Remember that a lot of your troubles have nothing to do with your industry. It would help though if the advisor had contacts/resources for you in your industry for when specific problems are addressed. * Look for flexibility. A potential advisor that pushes for more than 20 hours a month of your time from day one is probably out for money. Until they start working with you, there is no way of knowing that they need that much time per month to meet your goals and timelines. A good advisor will understand that you have made a commitment to get back on track just by the fact that you are talking to them. They shouldn't need to try and get a ridiculous time/money commitment from you if they want to help. * Make it a local thing. This suggestion is a two-part issue. First, the advisor should agree that when face time is needed that they come to you. Second, there is absolutely no reason why a small business with locations in one state needs a business advisor that must fly in or travel more than 2 hours to see them. These companies somehow find suckers to take their so-so advice and huge reports full of fluff and also pay for travel costs. There are plenty of advisors local to every company in this country. Yes, even in Hawaii. Once you made the very intelligent decision of getting help in making your business a success, keep a few things in mind. You should really commit to working with your advisor for a good 6 months. Nothing gets fixed overnight. Also, since you are paying for it, please do yourself a favor and be open to suggestions, bring important things to your advisor for help in making a decision and make the use of your time with the advisor a priority. Don't forget that an advisor or coach should never make a decision for you. It's your company, they are there to make suggestions and guide you. Working with an advisor can be a very enlightening experience. You will start to see the forest from the trees and not feel like you are the only person on the planet going through tough times as a business owner. All business owners eventually need help. The successful ones put aside their pride and desire to be at the center of all aspects of the company and get the help. Do yourself and your company a favor and be one of the truly successful business owners. Get an advisor and get all you can out of them. If your advisor loves what he/she does for a living as such as you love what you do, you can't go wrong. What Can A Small Business Marketing Consultant Do To Help You Grow Your Business? Think back to the time you started your business. Chances are it was because you enjoyed being in a particular industry -- you had a passion about your product or service, and wanted to share it with the world. But did you ever stop and say to yourself, "I can't wait to market this business"? Probably not. That unfortunately is why many of today's small businesses fail. The owners try everything they can think of to save their business, yet they miss out on the one opportunity that can turn their business into true success: hiring a small business marketing consultant. A small business marketing consultant specializes in learning the top ways to market a business; creates strategies that will help businesses double, even triple their current profits; and teaches the most effective methods for increasing the bottom line of any business. In today's business world, there are two types of small business marketing consultants: * Traditional small business marketing consultants * Online small business marketing consultants A traditional small business marketing consultant can help you create a marketing strategy using traditional tools. They understand how to advertise your business. They understand the importance of branding. They can help you write copy, and create dynamic promotional pieces. In short, they understand how to marketing your business well in the traditional environment. But if someone has been in the marketing field for a number of years, and understands traditional marketing venues well, what they may not be good at is making the transition to the online world. And there is a world of difference between traditional and online marketing. An online small business marketing consultant understands the same strategies used in traditional marketing. They understand advertising. They understand branding. They understand the importance for creating dynamic promotional pieces. But from there is where the differences begin. An online small business marketing consultant realizes that you sell differently online than you do off. It takes different strategies, different copy, and different promotional materials to succeed online. Not only should a consultant provide you with traditional methods, but they should make sure these methods feed the online world as well. For example, a postcard sent out direct mail has always been a successful tool. But if you send out that postcard asking for the reader to take one action step -- heading to a website to sign up for a free report -- you success rate for that postcard will improve dramatically. While this technique may seem simple, there are many techniques just like this that can bridge the traditional and online world together, and make your business stronger and more profitable. It's all in what you know -- and whom you ask to help make it a possibility. Unsecured Start Up Loans For Small Business -- Is It A Good Idea? First-time small business owners usually are chary of unsecured start up loans. This is because the time frame for making a profit is not definite whether or not there is a properly thought out and lucrative business plan in place for the future business. When profits or revenues do not materialize per plans, as in most cases, there is danger of default on loan repayment. When this happens credit rating of the person involved gets degraded as unsecured loans are granted on the basis of credit and borrowing history of the business owner. And if there is bad credit history behind, he/she can very well forget that small business loan. Let's discuss some more aspects of unsecured small business start up loans. Some Facts If the credit history of 'to be' small business owner is good, unsecured start-up business loans are easier to avail as compared to other business loans. But it is better to go for secured loans against property or equipment affiliated with the business. Secured loan not only keeps personal credit rating intact but poses lesser risks for the business owners, because they can use the hypothecated equipment to generate a profit for the business. As a result the loan can be paid back on time. Not just that, secured loans are for longer tenure and come with lesser interest rate burden, thereby lowering the cost of loan. But if you have decided to apply for unsecured small business start-up loans, you should be careful about the requested amount. Remember, the more you owe on the loan (including interest), the more will be the money which you have to repay. If you are not exactly sure how well the business will do in the first year and want to keep your credit rating good, it is best to request a small amount for your unsecured start-up business loan. This will make sure that repayment installments are small and if you are punctual in repaying, you can always ask for more, which will be gladly given. Some Advice Before you apply for an unsecured business start-up loan, there are several things that you should keep in mind. First of all, you will need to convince the lender that it is a good decision to issue the loan to you. Since unsecured loans are based on your credit and repayment history, you will have to convince lenders that you can handle your personal finances in an organized fashion. Good credit record will put lenders at ease since they will be able to see your repayment history on your credit report. Since lenders will be looking at your credit report, you should maintain a positive report as far as possible. If you know that you owe certain lenders, you should try to settle these debts or set up a payment plan with your creditors. This will be visible on your report. Before you make any final decisions about unsecured start-up loans for business, be sure to speak to an accountant or a representative from your local bank. This will make sure that you are applying for the right loans which would help your business to develop quickly and steadily. You must not take a decision unless you are convinced. Understanding Financial Statements In Financial Accounting -- Reporting for those outside the business, the 3 most important financial statements, relevant for budding entrepreneurs are: 1. The Statement of Financial Position or the Balance Sheet 2. The Statement of Income or The Profit & Loss Statement 3. The Statement Of Cash Flows. The Balance Sheet shows the business's assets, the liabilities, and the equities of a business. It is a 'snapshot' of the business economic resources at a certain date. That is why when you see one, it says something like, The Statement Of Financial Position as at dd/mm/yyyy. Unlike a Balance Sheet that is a 'snapshot' of economic resources, the Profit and Loss Statement is a summary of the flows of earned revenues and incurred expenses of a business for a period of time. That is why when you see one, it says something like: Profit & Loss Statement for the year 200X. The Statement of Cash Flows summarizes the 'cash' effects of the activities of a business for a period of time. These activities can be operating, investing and financing. The keyword that I would like to emphasize in the above definition is the word 'cash'. It only records activities that involved the transfer of cash. I can summarize the above even further: 1. Your Balance Sheet shows you what you own and how you acquired them (borrowed from others or contributed by you). 2. Your Profit And Loss shows you how much you are expending each period and how much you are earning. 3. The statement of Cash Flows summarizes the exchange of cash in your operating, investing and financing activities. I personally feel that for most freelancers, when starting a small business, attention should be placed on your Profit and Loss statement because that is your record of how much income is coming in and how much expenses is going out. Take a look at the revenue items there to know which activity is bringing in money and take a look at the expense items to see which ones are costing you the most and ask yourself whether those expenses are really necessary. Are there ways in which you could cut your costs? Costs are what any entrepreneur has to control at the start of every business. No cost item should go by unnoticed or unmonitored. Their existence must be justified. Every dollar counts. Every dollar that gets tied up in one thing is a dollar that could otherwise be used somewhere else. Types of Employee Issues in a Small business When you are running a small business, you should be prepared for various kinds of obstacles. Employees are a major part of the obstacles that you face in a small business. Some of the employee issues that you might face in a small business are described briefly below. Work Over Load: Some employees have problems when it comes to work load responsibility. These employees may be those that simply do not want to do more than they are supposed to do within the stipulated daily work time. However, as an employer you would need to ass whether this is a real condition or if the employee has genuine problems handling a particular work load. Employees that are overloaded feel that they are either not getting paid enough for their work or that they simply can not handle all the work that they are given even if they were to get an increase in salary. In cases of overload, where an employee feels that s/he has been working more than the compensation offered overtime payment may arise. As an employer you may want to pay your employee extra to make sure that s/he continues to perform well. Sometimes it is just the matter of being paid more that helps an employee work more and take on a greater load. Remember, more money can do wonders. Naturally, employees that put in greater efforts and a greater number of work hours also need to be compensated. So, you justifiably need to pay an employee extra if s/he is willing to work on assignments that take more than the stipulated work-time. The Importance of a Small Business Credit Card Small business plays a vital role in today's economy. It is now easier than ever to establish a new business. According to the US Small Business Administration, small businesses pay over 45% of the US private payroll. Small businesses also employ over half of all private sector employees and provide 60-80 percent of new jobs over the past 10 years. With about 28.5 million small businesses in the US alone in 2005, virtually all financial institutions now offer small business loans to qualifiers for a percentage. So why apply for a small business credit card? Keep Track of All Your Small Business Expenses The first and most obvious reason for a small business credit card is to separate personal finances from business related purchases. With your small business credit card, you can make all your transactions by phone, internet or in person. Then get periodic statements detailing all of your business expenses. Business credit cards are accepted virtually everywhere that you shop. Covering business purchases with employee's personal money can get very messy. So instead of relying on cash, use a business credit card. Most credit card issuers offer a credit limit for employee cards as well as different methods to monitor how the card is used. You no longer have to dread the year-end nightmare of trying to track where and when you spent your money. It's like having all your book-keeping done automatically for you! In a digital world, why should your business have to collect every last printed receipt? Establish Your Small Business A credit card with your business name on it gives your business credibility. A business credit card looks a lot more professional than paying from your own wallet. It also gains the respect of financial institutions. Just by owning a business credit card, your business can build credit. So when you need that business loan, you will get the best interest rate and qualify for higher amounts. As your credit builds you might also qualify for a lower interest business credit card. So even if your business doesn't have a 6 figure budget, a business credit card could help your business grow. You never know when your business might suddenly need extra money. Office equipment might need immediate replacement. Without a business credit card, financing could drastically interfere with your daily routine. Earn Rewards with a Business Credit Card You can also save money and earn rewards. Certain business credit cards give you cash back on all your purchases. Other cards give you varying cash back percentages depending on where you shop: gas stations, grocery stores, office supply stores, etc. A cash back business credit card is a great way to increase your profit margin. Other cards give you airline travel rewards just for using your credit card. . For instance, if your company has frequent business plane trips, then small business credit cards that offer travel miles, hotel accommodations or travel insurance are most suitable. This type of credit card could give you travel discounts, free flights, free companion travel or upgraded flight seating. Not only does a small business credit card provide convenience and rewards, it also helps to build business credit for the future of your company as you watch it grow! Research the business credit cards available and find the card that best suits your business needs. Finance your business for today and tomorrow. Small businesses main problem? They need more customers. In September of 2005 our company sponsored a survey of small businesses in the service areas. The purpose of the survey was to ask the business owners, many of them franchise owners, what their significant business hurdles were. The key areas of the survey were customers, growth, technology and research, and employees. You can see the complete results at http://seedsofgrowth.com/service-business-owner-survey-results-fall-2005. There are many things to be learned by studying the results that you can see here, and I hope you'll find them interesting and helpful. It will probably come as no surprise that the common problems facing service businesses are: 1. Finding new customers does not occur fast enough 2. Growth of revenue is also not as fast as desired 3. Cutting through the advertising chaos to reach customers is difficult 4. The internet is providing little benefit to small businesses 5. Issues regarding costs and working capital are also significant. No real surprises but it does highlight the need that small business owners have to gain new customers and get the ones they have to purchase more often. Doesn't that solve most, if not all, of the issues they identified? The question is how to do it. Our suggestion? The internet provides a powerful tool for communication and advertising that small business and franchise owners aren't using enough or effectively for marketing. It's called "internet marketing" or "online marketing" and it can include "email marketing". It's likely that small business owners don't know how to use internet marketing as the internet is seen as a big nebulus thing with no tie to location and most small businesses are tied to one location. The business principles we espouse, regardless of the vehicle used to enact them, are: 1. Making our businesses remarkable by taking great care of customers 2. Listening to and acting on what they have to tell us 3. Giving them a megaphone to tell their friends and colleagues. It's a simple formula for success and it works. The internet provides a very inexpensive and effective means of doing so when you use the right software tools that work automatically so that they don't require your valuable time. Check out PromoterZ at http://www.promoterz.com. Small Business Startup -- The 90/10 Rule Small business startups require a lot of work. You might however, be surprised by what type of work should be taking up the majority of your time. Computer consultants, when they contemplate small business startups, tend to focus on the technical aspects of the business. The rational is that they want to offer a decent service and must have great technical skills before anyone will be willing to pay them. In fact, the 90/10 Rule tells us that during small business startups, 90% of your time should be spent on direct marketing activities and only 10% on building technical skills. The type of small business startup activities to spend 90% of your time on include:prospectinglead generationgoing out on sales callspreparing proposals During the small business startup phase you must be very attuned to the need for acquiring high quality clients. Every non client hour that does not have to go into administrative or organizational duties should be plowed into prospecting and networking. This can ease up a bit once you start to get beyond the small business startup phase. For now though, client generation is your priority.
The Bottom Line on Small Business Startup For small business startups, following the 90/10 Rule is critical. Spending 90% of your time on direct marketing and business development activity versus 10% on technical skills development is a trade-off that is well worth it. There is no point gaining technical skills if you have no clients to practice them on. Small business startup is a time that will make or break your business. Put your training and certifications on hold for a while and get out meeting people and making as many contacts as possible. Small Business Start Up Costs: How Deep Are Your Pockets? One of the challenges of planning and getting a new business off the ground is to establish what your start up costs are going to be. At best, it's going to be a stab in the dark or a wild guess, but there are some specific steps you can take to make your costings more realistic. Why Estimate Your Costs? But, before we look at where you can get help, we should consider why you need to get your estimate of start up costs to be as close to reality as possible. Firstly, if you are seeking bank finance the dreaded Business Plan is required! The Bank Manager is not going to be impressed by a comment such as, "I think my start up costs are going to be around $25,00 but hey, who knows!" Secondly, you need to go into any new venture with your eyes open. You have to be as sure as you can on how much it's going to cost to get your new business started. There is nothing worse than getting 90% of the way there, only to fall at the last hurdle because you didn't cater for one major expense. Lastly, as a start up you are likely to only have a limited pot of money available. You have to prioritise which costs are essential and which can be delayed until the business is more established. You can only do this if you have researched and understand what your costs are going to be. Where Can You Go For Help? It's easy to think that you have a good idea of what your start up costs are likely to be, but do you really? Once you think about it, a whole can of worms starts to open! But there are sources of help you can turn to, which will ensure that you don't face oblivion within the first few weeks. A good starting point is your country's government support and business advice agency. These are government funded organizations which are there to provide free and impartial advice on all aspects of running a business. Call and book an appointment to see an advisor. They will have a wide range of material and experience which will give you a good grounding in the costs you will have to cover. The service is usually free, so that's one cost you won't have to worry about! Chamber of Commerce or Local Business Club/Group If you have a local arm of the Chamber of Commerce or any formal or informal business group, then they are a good source of knowledge and information. Within the group you will find a wealth of experience and people who have been through it all -- good times and bad times! You may be lucky enough to attend a meeting when a speaker is there on just the topic you are looking for. Colleagues and Other Business Owners If you don't have a club or group you can attend, then seek out business people yourself. Ask all your contacts to tell you about their start up experiences. What costs they budgeted for; what costs they didn't budget for; where they overspent. Genuine business people are usually happy to share their experiences and give you advice. Listen to what they have to say and take note. If you don't have a circle of business contacts, put the word out to all your personal friends. A few of them will have friends or relatives who are in business on their own. Ask for an introduction or referral. This will 'warm' them up before you ask your searching questions. Bank Business Guides Many Banks provide comprehensive brochures on starting up in business. They usually contain a Business Plan template which will include a section on start up costs. Some go further and produce guides for specific industries and sectors. They provide in depth analysis about the business, the market, the competition and estimated start up costs. Call in to your local Bank and ask to see the Small Business Manager/Advisor. Suppliers If you are looking to cost your raw materials or partly finished stock for buy in then, as a key part of your financing, call your potential suppliers and ask for quotations. Tell them that you are starting up and they should be more than helpful, after all you could be a potential customer! Examples of Start Up Costs If you haven't got the time to try any of the above (and there's no reason why you shouldn't find some time!) here are some of the key costs you will have to cover: * Equipment * Fixtures and fittings * Installation * Initial stock * Advertising * Decoration * Legal and other professional fees * Licenses * Specialised computer software * Up front rental payment * Initial cash float * Cash to cover trading for the first month or two until the payments start rolling in The list is by no means exhaustive but it will provide you with the first step to finding out how much it will cost you to start up. Who Said It Was Going To Be Easy? Getting a new business off the ground is difficult enough, even if you fully understand what it's going to cost you. Doing it with no idea is not a recipe for success. Devote some time to this exercise and you will be amply rewarded. Small Business Networks: Are Your Clients Using the Right Tools? Since the vast majority of small business prospects and clients that you encounter will likely be running some version of Microsoft Windows, it is a good idea to educate small business managers on the differences between the "current" versions of Microsoft Windows. Versions of Microsoft Windows Are your clients using the "right" version of Microsoft Windows? Below is some lists of different versions of Microsoft Windows your clients may be using in their small business network. Consumer products (Home User) (home user) - Microsoft Windows 95 - Microsoft Windows 98 - Microsoft Windows 98, Second Edition - Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition (Me) - Microsoft Windows XP Home Business Products: Desktop: - Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4 - Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional - Microsoft Windows XP Professional Server: - Microsoft Windows NT Server 4 - Microsoft Windows 2000 Server - Microsoft Server 2003 Eight 32-bit Microsoft Windows products have been used by small businesses since the mid-'90s -- and that's just on the desktop side of the typical small business network. Managing Expectations It can be very helpful to understand some of the main differences between peer-to-peer and client/server small business networks. If you want to close the sale and gain a profitable, long-term client, it's very important to educate your prospects and clients on key terminology while you work to manage their expectations from the very first conversation. Small Business, Think Big Running a small business is much harder than running a corporation. Surprising? Not if you're a small business entrepreneur. As a fledling business owner on a restricted budget you have to multi-task,juggle,prioritize and balance. Unlike corporations, you don't have a specialized professional team to help you manage, allowing you to focus on more critical business strategies. Neither do you have the capital to afford such luxuries.At best you have about twenty employees that you need to train, supervise, motivate, schedule and pay. You're the sole manager, running your business on a shoe-string budget with only 24 hours a day. Given such stressful financial and time constraints, how can you successfully maintain a balance between excellence, efficiency, and improving productivity all on your own? The answer? Think big. Manage your business like the big corporations do. Corporations rely on efficient organization that is cost-effective. Yes, even big companies have budget (granted big, but not unlimited) constraints that warrant resourcefulness. Today big businesses resort to business management software whenever possible to replace business processes that were once done manually, reducing costs of labor, time and human error. Scheduling employees, for instance, used to be a tedious, time-consuming task before automated scheduling software made rosters, schedules and shift management a breeze. Today, small businesses can not only easily be a more efficient organization with the help of such software but can also obtain business software at no cost. The business software market offers a variety of free trial software programs for evaluation before purchasing. The downside of those programs are either a time limitation (meaning you might not get fully acquainted with all features) or limited in features (meaning you can't test all the features). If you like the program, you find out it carries a corporate price tag. On the other hand, there are companies (few though they exist), such as Kappix, that offer free fully functional business management software, with no time/feature limitations. Kappix, a leading provider of employee scheduling software, provides businesses of all sizes with DRoster Employee Scheduling. DRoster creates, manages, and automates shifts, rosters, schedules, personnel contact information, job descriptions and tasks. DRoster Employee Scheduling software enables a small business to manage its workforce in advance. You can ensure replacement for absentees, breaks, time-off, vacations. Kappix gives small businesses the professional edge that big companies have. This software provider is an example of the few quality providers of true free business management software. Now you can "think big" -- focus on more critical business issues and leave the scheduling to DRoster. Kappix provides DRoster at no cost along with free support. Their employee scheduling software is intuitive and designed to meet the scheduling needs of a myriad of industries. Free software like Kappix's DRoster Employee Scheduling Software, can afford you the time to boost productivity without sacrificing valuable money and precious time. Think big, like the big successful corporations. At no cost. Small Business, Big-Time Office For small businesses in a never-ending fight for clients, first impressions mean a lot. So when a home-based financial planner wants to impress a millionaire CEO, talking stocks at the corner coffee shop just won't do. Trouble is, a one-man shop can't afford a well-appointed office at a prestigious business address. Or can he? As National Small Business Week recognizes the more than 25 million entrepreneurs who form the backbone of the U.S. economy, it's ironic that high-priced commercial real estate keeps many of them from realizing their true potential. But the rules are changing. "More flexible workplace arrangements now give small businesses access to the same premium office space that Fortune 500 companies enjoy, but at a fraction of the cost," said Mark Dixon, CEO of The Regus Group, the world's largest provider of outsourced workplaces. Here are three ways an increasing number of innovative entrepreneurs are leaving the coffee shop, and still staying in the black. 1. Outsourced Offices: Fully furnished, ready-to-use office space has become the perfect solution for small-business owners who need a professional place to spread out and get serious, even if it's on a part-time basis. With the business center providing everything from furniture to IT support and a receptionist, start-up costs are minimal. And since the terms are month to month or even daily, there's no risk of getting stuck in a long-term lease. Small-business owners can customize an office plan that meets their specific needs. 2. Facilities that Fit: What about small-business owners who already have an office but can't afford the professional facilities that big companies take for granted? "A recruiting specialist who needs to conduct interviews across the country can skip the plane ride and book a videoconferencing room," said Dixon. Similarly, consultants and trainers can hold sessions in fully stocked meeting rooms booked by the hour or the day. 3. Anywhere Access: The technical revolution has created legions of mobile professionals whose offices are airports and hotel rooms. But even the most gadget-heavy road warrior can long for a real desk, a full-size phone and a receptionist. From Hoboken to Hong Kong, some outsourced office providers have worldwide locations, so business nomads always have a productive place to plug in and meet with clients. While the costs of long-term leases once kept small businesses looking small-time, today's entrepreneurs are using creative office strategies to stake their claim alongside the biggest players in their industries. Small Business: Affordable Health Benefits Key Concern Health care benefits have become more expensive in recent years, which puts them out of reach for many Americans. Of the more than 45 million Americans who are uninsured, nearly 60 percent are employed by small businesses. According to a recent survey commissioned by Aflac of 501 small-business owners, many understand the role of a good benefits package in the hiring process. Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported that they are concerned about their company's ability to provide a benefits package that will attract and retain employees. Half of those surveyed agreed that they cannot attract and retain top-quality employees without offering competitive health benefits. However, small-business owners also acknowledged that providing benefits presented certain financial issues as well. The survey found: * Nearly half reported that increasing health care costs have negatively impacted their employees' wages. * Six in 10 respondents agreed that "it is important to financially help employees with health challenges and medical emergencies." * Forty-two percent of those surveyed agreed that annual increases in health benefits have made them decrease their offerings. In feedback from small business owners, Aflac also found that many of them assumed that coverage was available only to large corporations. As a result, the insurer launched a new nationwide radio campaign focused on letting growing companies know that Aflac may provide an affordable solution to enhancing employee benefit offerings. "At Aflac, we recognize that small business owners wear many hats, including the responsibility of making quality insurance benefits available to their employees," said Paul S. Amos II, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Aflac. "However, with rising health care expenses, many small business owners struggle to afford the cost of insurance while maintaining and recruiting a quality workforce. "Because small businesses are more susceptible to premium increases, it is critical that they are well-informed of the numerous health benefit options available. Aflac offers a wide variety of policies with no direct cost to employers, since most of the policies are individually issued and paid." Small Business -- The Benefit Of Adding Benefits To Payroll With unemployment rates going down and companies struggling to attract and retain quality employees, employers should pay close consideration to the emphasis being put on the importance of health care by employees. We have seen several times more and more that employees are first asking about the benefits plan and then about salary. It is obvious that affordable health care is prevalent on the minds of candidates. For existing employees, we've found that offering higher benefits contributions in lieu of salary increases is a well received concept. Small businesses have their eyes on the bottom line and labor costs are one of the hardest hitting factors. By offering higher contributions to benefits plans employers are able to reduce the overall payroll costs. This is an area that most employers don't spend a lot of time looking at because they think they are under the impression it will be too costly. Another misconception is that for a good benefits contribution plan, an employer must purchase a group policy. This is not the case, a resourceful HR person will assist company leaders in researching alternative benefits options such as mini-meds (miniature medical plans with lower maximum coverage and limited visits), individual medical plans specific to each employee (often times much lower cost than group rates) and Health Savings Accounts just to name a few. Small businesses should definitely consider benefits options now as there are proponents of legislation to make benefits mandatory for small to medium size businesses. At the end of 2005 California voters were presented with potential legislation that would require that certain employers provide health coverage for their employees and in some cases dependents through either (1) paying a fee to a new state program primarily to purchase private health insurance coverage or (2) arranging directly with health insurance providers for health care coverage. The state would also establish a new program to assist lower-income employees to pay their share of health care premiums. This referendum lost by only about 2% so we are keeping our eye on this to resurface again in the very near future. Small-Business Servers Increase Efficiency As small businesses expand in size and geographic scope, they often find it difficult to make technology available to employees in all locations. Today, however, many are finding that by installing small-business servers, they're reaching more people in more places. They're also increasing productivity, profitability and efficiency while decreasing costs. A small-business server can store all of a company's documents, e-mail, calendars and images in one location, where all employees can access them from computers connected to the server. Files on the server can be downloaded anywhere in the world when the server is set up for Internet access. One of the many benefits of a small-business server is that it allows companies to increase communication efficiencies. For example, the combination of e-mail capability and calendar functions enables executives to view any employee's calendar, then send an e-mail meeting request that is automatically entered onto invitees' calendars. Outside the office, employees can e-mail co-workers through hand-held devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants. Employees working in distant locations also can access their office computer remotely and use it as if they were at their desks. For example, Atlanta-based CCM Homes LLC, relatively new to computer technology, used 14 stand-alone computers to run its home-building operations. These computers helped streamline many of the company's business processes, but sharing data was difficult due to varying PC configurations and software. In addition, a lack of centralized data affected the company's ability to accurately price its finished homes. CCM Homes resolved these problems by installing Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003. Employees can now work from outside the office without relying on co-workers to hunt down information for them. In addition, security has improved, communication has been transformed, and the company expects to save $100,000 each year as a result of more accurate budget forecasts. Small-Business Owners Should Check The Mail Every day, the 25 million U.S. small-business owners juggle countless tasks including purchasing supplies, leading meetings, interacting with customers and handling finances. Business owners are often so preoccupied with daily operations, they lose sight of the bigger picture and neglect planning and investing. Although filing a tax return may rank as one of the biggest causes of stress for a business owner, a subsequent refund check is an opportunity to reinvest in the company. Instead of simply using the money for operating expenses, small-business owners should direct the money into long-term purchases benefiting the company. How to invest? Often, small businesses struggle to seem as credible and professional as larger competitors. A great investment is a key technology tool allowing the business, its people and the work to shine throughout the years. Project an image of professionalism. For example, a digital projector promises a smooth, impactful presentation to clients and partners each and every time. Weighing a little over five pounds, products such as InFocus' Work Big IN24 and IN26 are flexible projectors giving anyone who needs to demonstrate expertise in a persuasive presentation a tool to engage the audience. These long-lasting and dependable products fill a wall or screen with bright, vivid and crisp images, capturing every detail in a sales presentation, a pitch to win new business or a video montage to provoke interactive brainstorming sessions. Get financially organized. Another great investment is small- business software to streamline tasks and reduce the hours spent on work not central to the business. The timesavings gained mean more energy can be directed elsewhere in the business. For example, software such as Microsoft Money Small Business has features to help manage business finances and better plan investments. It's easy to create invoices, track spending and manage payroll with the intuitive tools in Microsoft Money. Don't wait to update! Beginning with tax refunds, business owners should commit to updating technology regularly. A few small investments can make employees more productive and enthusiastic. And the InFocus projector and Microsoft software are deductible expenses, qualifying for a discount of up to 35 percent. Profits With Safety In The Small Business As a small business owner, you are a risk taker. There is excitement and challenge in such a venture, but to succeed you need good management information, an ability to be a good manager of people and the intelligence and inner strength to make the right decisions. From unnecessary risk taking, thousands of workers die each year and many suffer injury or illness from conditions at work. How often does an owner or manager actually see work-related deaths, serious injuries or illnesses in the workplace? In some small businesses, the answer is rarely. For this reason, many owners or managers do not understand why there is controversy about the government having occupational safety and health agencies with enforceable laws. But others have learned why; unfortunately, they have experienced a loss. These owner/managers will tell you that it is too late to do anything once a serious accident happens. They have learned that prevention is the only real way to avoid this loss and unnecessary risk taking. Reducing losses and risks are goals that you as an owner or manager must set in assuring the safety and well being of all in the business. Small business owners and managers place a high value on the well-being of your employees. Family members and personal acquaintances may be part of the business and even hired employees will become almost like family as time goes by. Investing in safety and health activity now will better enable you to avoid possible losses in the future. Nobody wants accidents to happen in the workplace. A serious fire, a permanent injury, or the death of an employee or owner can cause the loss of profit or even an entire business. To prevent such losses, you don't have to turn your business upside down. You may not have to spend a lot of money, either. You do need to use good business sense and apply safety prevention policies. There are reasons why accidents happen. An accident always has a cause and a reason why. Once you know why an accident happened, it is possible to prevent future incidents. The business needs a plan to prevent accidents. Not all dangers at the workplace depend on an accident to cause harm, of course. Worker exposure to toxic chemicals or harmful levels of noise or even radiation may cause gradual illness over a long period of time. There needs to be a plan that includes prevention of these unseen health hazard exposures. There needs to have a safety and health management system. It is not difficult to develop such a plan. Basically, the plan should address the types of accidents and health hazard exposures that could happen in the workplace. Because each workplace is different, the program should address the specific needs and requirements for the business. There are four basic elements to all good safety and health programs. These are as follows: 1) The manager needs to lead the way, by setting policy, assigning and supporting responsibility, setting an example and involving employees. 2) The workplace needs to be continually analyzed to identify all existing and potential hazards. 3) Methods to prevent or control existing or potential hazards are put in place, maintained, and updated. 4) Managers, supervisors and employees need to be trained to understand and deal with worksite hazards. Regardless of the size of the business, the plan should use each of these points to prevent workplace accidents and possible injuries and illnesses. Developing a workplace program following these four points is a key step in protecting you and your workers' safety and health. If you already have a program, reviewing it in relation to these points should help you improve what you have. Following this four-point approach to safety and health in your business may also improve efficiency. It may help you reduce insurance claims and other costs. The plan will certainly give you a way to express and document your good faith and commitment to protecting your workers' health and safety. This approach usually does not involve large costs. Developing a health and safety protection plan does not have to be expensive and generally does not require additional employees, especially in smaller businesses. Safety and health can be integrated into your other business functions with modest effort on your part and will become part of the daily routine. The key to the success of a safety and health plan and program is to see it as a part of the business operation and to see it reflected in the day-to-day operations. Once implemented, the safety program will become second natured to the owner as well as the employees. Partnering: Where Can You Find Good Partners? One of the best places to find new partnering relationships is through client referrals. If you're taking on a new client and you get introduced to someone who's a very deeply niched expert, invite them to lunch or coffee. You could say, "We should really get together and talk about whether we have any clients that could use your expertise and vice versa." After you've both already proven your abilities on this mutual client account, the trust is there, and partnering is pretty much a done deal. So when you're fortunate enough to have one of these things fall in your lap because a new client introduces you, that's tremendous. Definitely take advantage of it. Partnering Relationships Won't Magically Appear Beyond having them fall into your lap, you are going to have to get out there and actively seek potential partners. Going out to the chamber of commerce, you're going to stumble across other people who say that they are consultants. The key thing here again is to be able to differentiate yourself. If everyone is saying we do PC hardware, software, LANs and service, then you know, it's very difficult to figure out whether there's competitive issues that would prevent you from coming together and forming successful partnerships and contractor types of relationships. When Partnering, Look for Specialists The key thing is being able to explain that you're looking for something a little bit unique. If you're going to be the generalist and provide the total end-to-end solution, you just want to focus on meeting up with people who are specialists. You can also surf the Web to see who else is out there in your local market. You may stumble across some potential partners that way. However, it's so much easier if you're meeting them face to face. Forming these partnering relationships are easier if you meet in person at a channel event or a user group meeting or by an introduction through a mutual client. Outsourcing Without Upsetting Lou Dobbs I don't know how many times I've flipped through the channels and heard Lou Dobbs talking about "Exporting America." Now, I know Lou is discussing the political and economic context of American companies outsourcing their jobs overseas. However, this new one-dimensional definition of outsourcing has other implications to some of us in the States. I am no expert on politics, economics or Lou Dobbs, so I'll keep my opinions on those subjects to myself. However, what I would like to discuss is the negative connotation that the word "outsourcing" has taken on in this country. There are thousands upon thousands of small businesses in this country whose sole survival depends on other companies outsourcing their needs. Just think about it for a moment. How many companies in the service industries only exist to support the needs of other businesses? Imagine if every company had to act as a fully self-sufficient corporation. They must handle all of their own HR issues: no more employment agencies, payroll companies, etc. They must employ a full-fledged IT department to handle all of their own web design, networking, software and database designs. Each enterprise has to have enough administrative assistants, data entry specialists, desktop publishing experts, marketing gurus. The list is endless. If American companies were to completely eliminate all forms of outsourcing, life as we know it would end! Now, we all know that this is not what Lou or anybody else who has defined outsourcing as one of the most popular buzz words of the last few years is talking about. I understand that most people know that the business to business outsourcing within America is not a bad thing. Nonetheless, it seems strange to me that one word can take on such a life of its own. It's really not a new phenomenon, yet it is the first time that I've encountered one of these controversial terms in my own ventures. Let me say that as a business person in a field that is solely based on other businesses looking to my company to meet their needs, I find myself quite often searching for synonyms to outsourcing. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but when I'm advertising, I'm forever brainstorming for words to replace that one that starts with o and ends with source! After all the talk that's been spinning around Washington and the rest of the country, it seems that it's turned into a dirty word. Obviously, most people understand that there are all types of outsourcing. On the other hand, when you've got limited time and space are you going to choose a "hot button" word to describe what you're selling? Money Making Ideas That Work It is important when beginning a new business, especially when looking at online businesses, with many opportunities for inexperienced operators, that the information is easy to use, has proven strategies, has a step by step guide, is good value for money and offers a 100% money back guarantee. Without the right strategies and starting point, many programmes fall short wasting time and money to prospective entrepreneurs. In my opinion, after reviewing many of the top opportunities available online, the following sites we have published on www.richquickexposed.com, represent the best online products available on the internet today. Guaranteeing success if their expert advice is followed. The Rich Jerk This is the #1 resource you can get your hands on for making money on the Internet. The Rich Jerk gets straight to the point, telling you what you really need to know to make a lot of money online. The Rich Jerk has helped thousands of people make money online. Forex Enterprise A powerful system, which can start making money on the first day. Anyone can create a guaranteed stream of income with Google AdWords & ClickBank. Affiliate Cash Vault New fail-safe system virtually runs 100% on autopilot. Just set it and forget it! No gimmicks, no empty promises, just good business. They are looking for individuals interested in starting their own legitimate home business. Managing Stress In A Small Business I spotted a van on the interstate with "Too Blessed to Be Stressed" emblazoned across its back windshield. How appropriate that the driver divined that this mantra might be relevant for others to meditate upon while they navigate the freeways. Stress is considered an occupational hazard for entrepreneurs. Having positive mantras as we navigate our business lives is one way of dealing with stress. But there are times when positive phrases are not enough to manage stress or anxiety. Emotional self-management techniques are helpful in these instances. After the birth of my first son, I was diagnosed with post-partum depression and suffered from severe anxiety. My husband and I not only held full-time jobs, but were managing our business which included processing orders for our new online sites. It took every fibre in my being to fight and work through the malaise of depression with all the means available to me. This included visits to medical doctors and cognitive therapists. One of the most successful treatments I found was an emotional self-management (EMS) technique recommended to me by a psychologist. The theory and techniques are explained in Instant Emotional Healing : Acupressure for the Emotions. It combines the principles of cognitive behavioral techniques along with those of Oriental medicine and the body's energy system. My inelegant explanation is that there are physical and emotional blocks in ourselves that can be relieved by tapping certain parts of the body that correspond to meridian points in the bodies energy sytem, as in accupunture, while simultaneously repeating positive phrases that penetrate the sub-conscious mind. The information in the book was easily accessible to me at a time when I the most stressed and unable to concentrate. I was relieved to find a technique that I could self-administer and utilize to take control of overwhelming and unproductive stress. All independent business people would benefit from techniques such as EMS to not only relieve unproductive emotions, but to optimize performance. How to Write a Business Plan There are many types of symbols. Money from investors, banks or financial organisations is one such kind of symbols. A successful Business Plan (=a successful manipulation of symbols) is one which brings in its wake the receipt of credits (money, another kind of symbol). What are the rules of manipulating symbols? In our example, what are the properties of a successful Business Plan? (1) That it is closely linked to reality. The symbol system must map out reality in an isomorphic manner. We must be able to identify reality the minute we see the symbols arranged. If we react to a Business Plan with incredulity ("It is too good to be true" or "some of the assumptions are non realistic") -- then this condition is not met and the Business Plan is a failure. (2) That it rearranges old, familiar data into new, emergent, patterns. The symbol manipulation must bring to the world some contribution to the sphere of knowledge (very much as a doctoral dissertation should). When faced with a Business Plan, for instance, we must respond with a modicum of awe and fascination ("That's right! -- I never thought of it" or "(arranged) This way it makes sense"). (3) That all the symbols are internally consistent. The demand of external consistency (compatibility with the real world, a realistic representation system) was stipulated above. This is a different one: all symbols must live in peace with one another, the system must be coherent. In the example of the Business Plan: Reactions such as: "This assumption / number/ projection defies or contradicts the other" indicate the lack of internal consistency and the certain failure to obtain money (=to manipulate the corresponding symbols). (4) Another demand is transparency: all the information should be available at any given time. When the symbol system is opaque -- when data are missing, or, worse, hidden -- the manipulation will fail. In our example: if the applicant refuses to denude himself, to expose his most intimate parts, his vulnerabilities as well as his strong points -- then he is not likely to get financing. The accounting system in Macedonia -- albeit gradually revised -- is a prime example of concealment in a placewhere exposition should have prevailed. (5) The fifth requirement is universality. Symbol systems are species of languages. The language should be understood by all -- in an unambiguous manner. A common terminology, a dictionary, should be available to both manipulator and manipulated. Clear signs of the failure of a Business Plan to manipulate would be remarks like: "Why is he using this strange method for calculation?", "Why did he fail to calculate the cost of financing?" and even: "What does this term mean and what does he mean by using it?" (6) The symbol system must be comprehensive. It cannot exclude certain symbols arbitrarily. It cannot ignore the existence of competing meanings, double entendres, ambiguities. It must engulf all possible interpretations and absolutely ALL the symbols available to the system. Let us return to the Business Plan: A Business Plan must incorporate all the data available -- and all the known techniques to process them. It can safely establish a hierarchy of priorities and of preferences -- but it must present all the possibilities and only then make a selection while giving good reasons for doing so. (7) The symbol system must have links to other, relevant, symbol systems. These links can be both formal and informal (implied, by way of mental association, or by way of explicit reference or incorporation). Coming back to the Business Plan: There is no point in devising a Business Plan which will ignore geopolitical macro-economic and marketing contexts. Is the region safe for investments? What are the prevailing laws and regulations in the territory and how likely are they to be changed? What is the competition and how can it be neutralized or co -- opted? These are all external variables, external symbol systems. Some of them are closely and formally linked to the business at hand (Laws, customs tariffs, taxes, for instance). Some are informally linked to it: substitute products, emerging technologies, ethical and environmental considerations. The Business Plan is supposed to resonate within the mind of the reader and to elicit the reaction: "How very true!!!" (8) The symbol system must have a discernible hierarchy. There are -- and have been -- efforts to invent and to use non-hierarchical symbol systems. They all failed and resulted in the establishment of a formal, or an informal, hierarchy. The professional term is "Utility Functions". This is not a theoretical demand. Utility functions dictate most of the investment decisions in today's complex financial markets. The author(s) of the Business Plan must clearly state what he wants and what he wants most, what is an absolute sine qua non and what would be nice to have. He must fix and detail his preferences, priorities, needs and requirements. If he were to attach equal weight to all the parts of the Business Plan, his message will confuse those who are trying to decode it and they will deny his application. (9) The symbol system must be seen to serve a (useful) purpose and it must demonstrate an effort at being successful. It must, therefore, be direct, understandable, clear and it must contain lists of demands and wishes (all of them prioritized, as we have mentioned). When a computer faces a few tasks simultaneously -- it prioritizes them and allocates its resources in strict compliance with this list of priorities. A computer is the physical embodiment of a symbol system -- and so is a bank doling out credit. The same principles apply to the human organism. All natural (and most human) systems are goal-oriented. (10) The last -- but by no means the least -- requirement is that the symbol system must be interfaced with human beings. There is not much point in a having a computer without a screen, or a bank without clients, or a Business Plan without someone to review it. We must always -- when manipulating symbol systems -- bear in mind the "end user" and be "user friendly" to him. There is no such thing as a bank, a firm, or even a country. At the end of the line, there are humans, like me and you. To manipulate them into providing credits, we must motivate them into doing so. We must appeal to their emotions and senses: our symbol system (=presentation, Business Plan) must be aesthetic, powerful, convincing, appealing, resonating, fascinating, interesting. All these are irrational (or, at least, non-cognitive) reactions. We must appeal to their cognition. Our symbol system must be rational, logical, hierarchical, not far fetched, true, consistent, internally and externally. All this must lead to motor motivation: the hand that signs the check given to us should not shake. THE PROBLEM, THEREFORE, IS NOT WHERE TO GO, NOT EVEN WHEN TO GO IN ORDER TO OBTAIN CREDITS. THE ISSUE IS HOW TO COMMUNICATE (=to manipulate symbols) IN ORDER TO MOTIVATE. Using this theory of the manipulation of symbols we can differentiate three kinds of financing organizations: (1) Those who deal with non-quantifiable symbols. The World Bank, for one, when it evaluates business propositions, employs criteriawhich cannot be quantified (how does one quantify the contribution to regional stability or the increase in democracy and the improvement in human rights records?). (2) Those who deal with semi-quantifiable symbols. Organizations such as the IFC or the EBRD employ sound -- quantitative -- business and financial criteria in their decision making processes. But were they totally business oriented, they would probably not have made many of the investments that they are making and in the geographical parts of the world that they are making them. (3) And there are those classical financing organizations which deal exclusively with quantifiable, measurable variables. Most of us come across this type of financing institutions: commercial banks, private firms, etc. Whatever the kind of financial institution, we must never forget: We are dealing with humans who are influenced mostly by the manipulation of symbol systems. Abiding by the aforementioned rules would guarantee success in obtaining funding. Making the right decision on the national level -- would catapult a country into the 21st century without having first to re-visit the twentieth. How to Write a 'Killer' Business Plan Writing a Business Plan can be a daunting task. You have so many ideas floating around in your head that it can be difficult to capture them all in a logical format. However, committing time to writing an effective Plan can help improve your chances of success. In this article I will be giving you some tips on how to write a 'killer' Business Plan Tip 1 -- Understand the Need for a Plan Without a clear strategy and long term objectives you may be reducing your chances of success and so it's important to commit time to plan ahead. Having put in time, energy and resources to come up with the ideas, why spoil it all by not having a structured plan for the future? The benefits of business planning cannot be underestimated. There are some potentially business-changing reasons to prepare a Business Plan. You must view planning as a crucial investment of your time, which could mean the difference between success and failure. Tip 2 -- Don't Go It Alone, Ask For Help Picture this. You've never written a Business Plan before; you sit down at your table and end up staring at a blank piece of paper for 3 hours! Then, another 3 hours later, all you have is a bin full of scrap paper. However, in order to help you put a plan together there are a variety of sources of help you can tap into: * Professional advisers * Business colleagues * Advice agencies * Your staff * Books (see our free e-book offer at the end of this article) Tip 3 -- Follow a Framework Having a framework or outline to follow can make the task of writing a Business Plan so much easier. The 3 parts to your Plan are: * Where you are now * Where you intend to be * How you are going to get there This is your framework which will guide both you and the reader through your business and your idea. Tip 4 -- Tell the Reader Where You Are Now In your first section you want to paint a picture of where your business is now. These are the main areas to cover: * Business history * Location and premises * Your product or service * Your market * Your customers * Your competition * Your staff * Equipment Provide an insight into each part of your business so that the reader of your Plan knows how the business looks now. Obviously if you are just starting up, give an idea of how you see these parts of your business once you get going Tip 5 -- Tell the Reader Where You Intend To Be Having given an overview of your business, the next step is to tell them where you want to be. The main points to cover are: * Your objectives and goals * State what you want from the reader -- a loan or overdraft for example * Explain why you need and what it will be used for Tip 6 -- Tell the Reader How You Are Going To Get There It's all very well promoting your idea and business but the important point to put over is how you are going to get there. Here are the key points to cover: * Marketing plan * Additional resources needed to meet your objectives and goals * Your contribution in terms of cash or equipment * Security you can offer to support a request for finance * Profit and loss and cash flow forecast to show that you plan to make money and that you can pay back the loan Tip 7 -- Provide Some Supporting Information Your Plan will have contained a lot of information, so it is helpful to include supporting documentation to provide more background. Placing these additional items as an appendix ensures that the flow of the Plan has not been affected by additional information. * What sort of items could you include? * Letter of support from your Accountant * Confirmation of pending orders from customers * If you are purchasing a property, you could include the sales particulars * Independent industry surveys showing that your sector is doing well * If you are buying machinery, include quotations * If you business' main asset is you, include your CV! Tip 8 -- Ask Someone to Review It When you are totally immersed in a task you can easily miss obvious mistakes. Ask someone to review your Plan to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors -- don't rely on Spell Check! Does it all make sense? Have you been logical in your arguments? Tip 9 -- Get the Presentation Right After having spent a lot of time and effort on the content you don't want to spoil it all with poor presentation! Here are some tips: * Get the Plan typed; it will make it look more professional * Make sure all the papers are clean and that there are no dirt marks or coffee stains! Buy some good quality paper * Purchase a classy folder or binder to put your Plan in (paper clips or staples may not portray the right image!) * Don't forget to include all your contact details Tip 10 -- Deliver Your Plan to the Reader in Time Once you are satisfied that your Plan is a good representation of your business you can post it but ideally you should deliver it, at least you know it has got there! Prior to a formal interview (if your aim is to obtain finance) you need to give the Manager time to read your plan. Ask to make an appointment with him in 3 days so he has time to read it. Enclose a covering letter saying that you have made an appointment and your Plan is attached for him to review and to prepare any questions. All that remains for you to do is to turn up at the agreed time and present your case! How do I Value my Small Business? The problem with selling any small business ($500,000 and below) is how can a realistic value be put on the business. If a business is valued too high no one will be interested or worse value it too low prospective buyers will think there is something irregular. Also where it is listed for sale is important, EBay is a tremendous medium for certain things however fraud is common place. Unfortunately there is no fixed system when it comes to valuing any private business, the IRS, Courts of Law and the Inland Revenue all use there own systems. There are also many wonderful mathematical formulas that can be used; however there is no fixed system. To be honest the whole system is complicated with no fixed rule apart from one. What price is a person is happy to sell a business for and what is the buyer happy to pay? If you are either buying or selling a small business do not be afraid of negotiation, it is a natural process within business. There are many good negotiation techniques; Maitland Kalton of Kaltons Solicitors London is considered an expert in this field. The following list is a simple aid to assist people who are interested in finding a value of a business, either for the sale or purchase. 1. Does the business have employees either full time or part time? Prospective buyers should be aware that any business in the UK which employs 5 or more people has specific duties in regards to Health & Safety. 2. Is the business purely an internet business? Be warned it is very easy for an online business to appear to be doing very well, when the truth is completely the opposite. This practice unfortunately is leading to the devaluation of genuine online businesses. 3. Does the business have fixed assets or stock? It is much easier to value a garage where real estate and equipment can easily be valued, where as it is less easy to value a business with no fixed assets i.e. Legal specialists, Solicitors, Health workers etc. 4. Does the business have a full audit trail; it is surprising how many small businesses listed for sale do not. 5. What area is the business in; it goes without saying that businesses located closer to major cities are valued higher than businesses in a rural district. 6. What are the future growth prospects for the business? 7. Will the business require insurance/liability policies? These are just a few factors that have to be considered, as you can see there is much more to take into account than how much revenue is generated by the business. I hope this short article has been of some assistance to any potential buyer or seller of any small business. Small Business Networking to Get More Clients and Market Professional Services It's possible that -- like the thought of marketing and sales -- the thought of networking may make you cringe. When most service professionals hear the word "networking," they think of the old school business mentality of promotional networking at meet-and-greet events where everyone is there to schmooze and manipulate one another in an attempt to gain some advantage for themselves or their business. Who wouldn't cringe at the thought of spending an hour or two exchanging banalities and sales pitches with a phony smile plastered on your face to hide your discomfort? If it feels uncomfortable, self-serving, and deceptive, chances are all those business cards you collected will end up in a drawer of your desk never to be seen again because you'll so dread following up that you'll procrastinate until they're forgotten. Take heart! There is good news! It doesn't have to be that way! The Book Yourself Solid Small Business Networking Strategy operates from an entirely different perspective; it's all about connecting and sharing with others. All that's necessary is to shift your perspective from one of scarcity and fear to one of abundance and love. With the Book Yourself Solid Networking Strategy, the focus is on sincerely and freely giving and sharing, and by doing so, building and deepening mutually beneficial relationships with others. It's all about making lasting connections. Networking Events for Small Business Owners: What To Do If You Want More Clients * Do arrive on time This is not the time to stage a grand entrance by being fashionably late or to tell any stories about why you're late. Nobody cares. If you're late and it's noticed, apologize and leave it at that. * Do relax and be yourself Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don't have to fit in. It may sound trite, but be yourself, unless when you're being yourself you end the evening with your tie wrapped around your head doing a nose dive into the shrimp salad. But seriously, people want to meet the person who is out in front, who is writing the rules and taking the lead, not the one who is following the pack. So don't be afraid to be fully self-expressed. If you are you'll be more memorable. * Do smile and be friendly Both men and women may worry that smiling too big will be construed as some sort of a come-on or that they're desperate for attention. This fear of being misunderstood will hold you back. Let it go! Better to err on the side of a big, friendly smile than to be considered unfriendly or standoffish. * Do focus on giving If your focus is on giving of yourself, you're going to get returns in spades. If you focus on what you can get, you will be much less successful. * Do prepare for the event Learn the names of the organizers and some of the key players. Identify what and how you can share with others at the function: who you know (without being a name dropper), what you know (without being a know-it-all), and what you can share from your heart (without making assumptions) with the people who will be at this particular event. You never know what might change someone's life. * Do introduce yourself to the person hosting the event This person may be a very valuable addition to your network. Never forget to say, "Thank you." * Do introduce yourself to the big-wig If there's someone you want to meet at a big seminar or event, someone famous in your industry, do you go up to them and say, "Here's what I do and here's my business card"? No! You start by offering praise. You say, "I just want to tell you your work had a great effect on me," or "Your work inspired me to do this or that." Then the next time you are at the same event you might say, "I would just love to hold your coffee cup." Meaning, "I would love to assist you in some way that would add value to your life or work." She may say, "I don't think so," but what have you got to lose? Then again, she may respond by saying, "Yeah, you seem like a really genuine and considerate person. I've got some stuff you can do." Don't forget that successful and busy people always have more on their plate than they can reasonably handle. They're always looking for talented people to help make their life easier. If you can help reduce someone's stress level, you've made a friend for life. * Do offer something when first meeting someone, whenever possible Offer praise (as in the above example), compassion, or a connection. When you can say, "I know someone you've got to meet," or "There's a great book I think may offer the solution to your problem," they are going to see you very differently than the person who shoved a business card in their face and said, "Let's stay in touch, dude." If you can leave them feeling even better, more uplifted, and energized after their interaction with you, they're going to remember you. * Do start conversations by asking questions This is a great approach, especially if you're nervous. It takes the spotlight off of you and allows the other person to shine. It allows you to learn something new at the same time. * Do identify two or three things you'd like to learn from the people at the function People are drawn to others who are curious and interested. * Do make eye contact It expresses respect and interest in the person you're speaking with. And stay focused on the person you're speaking with. If you're speaking with me, but you're eyes are constantly scanning the room for someone more important or relevant to you, don't you think it might make me feel unappreciated? * Do wear comfortable clothing If you're constantly fidgeting or worrying about how you look in clothes that aren't comfortable or don't fit properly, you'll be self-conscious and others will sense it. * Do take the initiative Go up to people and make friends. People love to be asked about themselves, their hobbies, or their family. This is the time to get to know a few personal tidbits that will give you the opportunity to find a common interest that makes connecting easier and more natural. * Do offer a firm handshake Hold your drink in your left hand. This eliminates the need to wipe your damp hand on your slacks before shaking hands. And, guys, don't think you need to shake hands differently with a woman than you do with a man. A firm handshake (not a death grip) is always appropriate. * Do be inclusive Ask others to join your conversations; this is very important. Don't monopolize people, especially those who are in high demand, like the speaker from the event. It makes the speaker uncomfortable. Remember, they're there to meet lots of people too. It also annoys others who want to meet the person you're trying to keep to yourself. Tip: if you want to help, ask the speaker if there is anybody you can introduce her to, or simply be sure to keep including people in your conversations with her. This way, you'll be seen as a very generous and open person by the others at the event, and the speaker will remember you as someone who helped them easily network and navigate the event. * Do ask for a business card and then keep in touch It's your responsibility to ask for a card if you want one, and it's your responsibility to follow up. Quality not quantity counts when making genuine personal connections. If you race through an event passing out and collecting business cards from anyone and everyone as though there were a prize for the most cards gained at the end of the event, you'll do yourself a huge disservice. And remember, just because someone gives you their business card does not mean you have permission to add them to your mailing list or e-zine list. You do not. You can certainly send a personal email as a follow up, and you should, but you should not and cannot add them to your list. You don't have permission to do so. This is a pet peeve of mine. I feel that 25 percent of the time I'm asked for my business card at a conference, I end up on another newsletter list. Not cool. * Do have a pen with you always When you receive a business card, write a little note about any commitment to follow up, what you talked about, any personal bits or unusual things that will help you to remember the person and to personalize future contact, and be sure to include the date and name of the function where you met. Networking Events for Small Business Owners -- What Not To Do If You Want More Clients * Don't try to be cool And don't over compensate for your nervousness by bragging about your success; this is a major turn-off. * Don't let "What do you do?" be the first question you ask Let it come up naturally in conversation. * Don't sit with people you know for the majority of the event While it may be more comfortable to sit with the people you know, it becomes too easy to stay with them, and if you do, you'll defeat the purpose of being there. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know new people. * Don't juggle multiple items -- Travel light to eliminate the necessity of juggling your coat, purse, briefcase, drink, or buffet plate. Keep that right hand free for handshakes and for jotting down quick notes on any business cards. * Don't complain about networking or the event you're attending * Don't complain about anything -- period. The cycle of complaining is easy to get drawn into, especially at events where almost everyone is a bit uncomfortable. While complaining is an ice breaker, it's not an attractive one. Change the subject -- for example, "Have you tried the shrimp?" or take the opportunity to recommend this great book, Book Yourself Solid, and how it's transformed the way you think about networking events. * Don't take yourself too seriously Remember to relax and have fun. We're all just people. You Are Always Networking and Marketing Your Small Business and Professional Services Your profits will come from connections with people who can send you business. Whether that's by way of a satisfied client who refers others to you; or another professional who has the ability to book you for speaking engagements, write about you, or partner with you; or the manager at the video store who appreciates your big, friendly smile each weekend and the recommendation for a great baby-sitter you made when he desperately needed one. With the Book Yourself Solid Small Business Networking Strategy, the prospect of creating a phenomenal network of connections doesn't have to be overwhelming or intimidating. We all network constantly, with everyone, every day. Now we just need to do it consciously, with greater awareness, until doing so becomes a natural and comfortable part of our daily lives. Then follow-up. Keep in touch. It is imperative that you get every one of your connections into your database and act on each connection. If the contact isn't in your database or you don't take the action necessary to keep in touch, your networking is pointless. Have some form of this database with you at all times -- PDA, planner, personal address book -- so you can instantly connect others rather than having to get back to them. Small Business Networking: Overcoming More Client Objections In dealing with apathy toward small business networking, discontinued technical support is another powerful counterforce, especially when you're talking about vertical, industry-specific software, such as niche applications designed for accountants, attorneys, physicians, realtors, auto body shops and restaurants. Providing Support After a certain point, the independent software vendor (ISV) selling vertical, industry-specific software draws a line in the sand and stops providing technical support, annual updates, and patches for older versions of their product. So, if your client is an accounting firm that needs updated tax tables, your client is forced to upgrade the tax software, which often, in turn, forces an upgrade of the server. This results in a call to your firm to upgrade their server (and several related highly lucrative product sales and service opportunities for your small business networking firm), all as a result of the "domino effect" from an ISV calling the shots. Let Them Know What Their Competition Is Doing In addition to fears of unreliable systems and vendor-mandated upgrades, you can also overcome apathy toward small business networking by discussing your prospect's or client's competition (without naming names, of course). If you work with many small businesses in the same industry, and you're seeing a software or more general technology trend that drastically alters the competitive landscape in your prospect's or client's industry, by all means call this to your prospect's or client's attention. Small Business Marketing: Brilliant Branding Builds Business Branding is more than product recognition or a simple logo. It is the overall intellectual and emotional impression people have when they think of your company and its product. It is a strong and consistent message about the value of your business. A memorable and trustworthy brand reinforces customer loyalty. It helps them remember that your business provides the perfect solution to their problems. Therefore, to succeed in branding you must understand your customers' needs and issues. Brand building is an ongoing business strategy that has an easy-to-measure cost in time, money, and effort. Its value, on the other hand, is harder to establish because it involves measuring emotional associations that may not immediately translate into revenue. Branding is an essential element of success, however, and it should be reinforced during times when business is booming and when sales are slower. You want customers and potential customers to maintain a positive association with your company and its services. You control the messages you send out through marketing, advertising, customer service, and your Internet presence. Branding is a combination of everything your company uses to present itself. Here are a few key elements to analyze and enhance in your branding strategy: 1. Professionally designed marketing materials (logo, stationery, ads, and the like): These tell customers your company is strong, confident, and credible. Your marketing materials should reinforce your company's image and positioning over and over and over. 2. Consistency in advertising: Develop a tagline to succinctly describe your company -- and use it! Develop a campaign that can provide different messages, but it recognizable as your brand. 3. Excellent customer service -- always! Make sure your entire staff positively represents your business image. 4. A strong and professional website: It must be easy for viewers to navigate and understand. It should let visitors know what your company does and why they should care. Provide compelling, easy-to-understand, and interesting content. Make it easy for visitors to make purchases. 5. Differentiate your brand: Make sure your customers and potential customers understand why you are different from the competition. You want to establish a superior benefit with you target audience that encourages long-term loyalty. Branding is not what you say about your company and products; it's about your customers' perception of your company and products. To strengthen your brand, make sure you can answer the following questions: What do you do that is different from anyone else? Why do you matter to your customers? If you can't answer these questions, you don't have an effective brand. ACTION ITEM: Take a good look at your company and product/service strengths. Determine your primary strengths and benefits and then make sure your branding strategy (marketing materials, advertising, sales, customer services, logo, etc.) reinforces this. Simple, eh? Small Business Insurance: Do You and Your Subcontractors Need It? Of course, you need to check with an accountant or lawyer for specific information, but in this article, you'll learn what small business insurance has worked for our computer consultants and customers in the past. What Type of Small Business Insurance Do You Need? You should definitely have both a general liability as well as a professional liability policy for your services. That professional liability should have the errors and omissions insurance rider folded into it as part of your small business insurance coverage. How Much Will It Cost You? This insurance will range in cost, but $3500 is about average. Typically, small business insurance companies will base your price on your size, in terms of employees, the sales volume you're doing, and how they characterize you by risks. Take time to carefully explain and look at the categories with your agent before they lump you into something that you're not. A lot of times they might classify you into software developers which could be a very different risk category than network installers or resellers. Do Your Subcontractors Need Small Business Insurance? Yes, each of your subcontractors should definitely have general and professional liability and errors and omissions insurance. You should not be covering them. Otherwise what you're doing is probably providing benefits that are more like what you would do for an employee as opposed to a contractor. What's The Next Step With Your Small Business Insurance? Talk to your attorney and talk to your insurance agent. If you have an insurance agent that takes care of your property and contents insurance needs, you should definitely sit down and talk with them. You might want to ask this question of your accountant also because they have a relatively similar business model in your same area. Small Business Grants Are Very Attainable There was a time when the concept of free money was a very American notion. But, as the economy has tightened and budgets decreased, there are very few avenues towards capital to start up a new business that do not involve loans and interest. This makes the path towards financial independence all but impossible for many working Americans. However, the small business grant is still available (even in these very lean times!) as a potential source of funding for you dream of self-employment. A small business grant is part of a program funded by the federal government which provides capital for start up businesses. Sometimes a small business grant will simply give the money to a recipient with no requirement of repayment. Other business grants will require you to repay them with a minimal amount of interest over a period of years. Whether or not a small business grant requires repayment will depend on the nature of the grant itself. Obtaining a small business grant is certainly no simple matter. In truth, over a million applications are received every year with only hundreds being awarded. However, the fact that only a few hundred are awarded does not necessarily mean that the others were turned down for lack of funding. Quite the opposite, it is very common for a small business grant to be turned down due to filing mistakes as opposed to lack of funds. In fact, it is a common occurrence for funds to be returned at the end of the year because not enough people qualified for the grants available. But, the government is not the only potential source of a small business grant. Businesses will frequently form a "private foundation" which is responsible for disbursing funds set aside for grants and other useful community needs. The incentive for a company to use a private foundation is simple: tax savings. A company will pay less in corporate taxes when it gives away a small business grant than if it merely reported the income. Therefore, the private business community is an excellent grant source and is expected to be so in the future unless the tax code is significantly altered. The best way to ensure that your small business grant is approved is to be organized and very thorough in filling out the application. A winning small business grant will generally include a business plan that includes a detailed explanation of what funds are needed and why. But the most important thing to remember is to fill out the application thoroughly and exactly as directed. Attention to detail is what will separate the winners of a small business grant from the losers. Small Business Funding -- A savior for small enterprises Getting a bank loan is easier said than done -- all kinds of paper work, formalities, guarantors, and high interest rates: .its enough to make a small business owner lose sleep. Business cash advance or small business funding- a new concept in the economic block is proving to be a savior for small business owners and entrepreneurs, even those with bad credit history. Cash advance is a small business loan that is sanctioned against your future credit card and debit card sales. The reputed and reliable small business funding companies pre-approves loan after understanding the nature of your business. They do not ask you to bring along a guarantor or pay hefty hidden costs. All you need to do is to have a merchant account with a minimum monthly amount of transaction through credit card sales. Every day an agreed upon percentage of your credit card sales will go towards the repayment of your business loan till the time the complete loan amount is paid back. Use this capital sourced from small business funding company to run, strengthen or expand your business or for any other purpose of your choice. Till recently, business owners plagued by bad credit history found it extremely difficult to get small business loans when banks were the only source to secure business loans. But now with many private players entering in the lending market, securing loan for your business has become much easier. No matter what FICO score you have managed to secure in your credit report, bad credit small business loans are easily available in market. Caution: If you are looking for a small business funding company then be careful of certain facts: Check out if the company is charging anything as closing cost. There is no closing cost involved in cash advance or small business funding. Plus, your bad credit history should not affect the approval or interest rate. So do not pay any extra amount to get approval. Small Business Credit Cards For More Successful Businesses Small business credit cards are credit instruments that cater specifically to the needs of small businesses. They are like your normal credit card except for some changes in interest rates and features which are optimized for use by small businesses. They are very useful for small businesses that desire to streamline their finances and access extra credit. The numbers of small businesses that use these cards are ever-growing. A recent report shows that 66% of small businesses use these cards for purchasing and financing. Forty percent of this number use their exclusively use credit cards for their payments. But why should a business apply for one? Are there any benefits that merit application for such a card? There are many advantages. Some of them will be outlined below. For one, these cards allow a business to get hold of good credit. Good credit is the use of borrowed finances to generate more cash. In effect, the act of borrowing actually results in the company earning more. A small business credit card allows for this. The business then is able to keep hold of finances for other reasons: investing for interest, for profit, or other needs the business may have for cold cash. They can pay in easy installments that will not dent the financial capability of the business. They can also pay when they are capable of paying. Another advantage of using small business credit cards is the fact that they help make bookkeeping easier. Instead of keeping a journal of all transactions and receipts, one can have the credit card company send an itemized list of purchases made using their credit card. This allows for better bookkeeping and better accounting. Lost receipts and undocumented expenses can be avoided. This helps the business make more accurate financial reports. Small business credit cards also allow businesses to build up their credit limit. Small businesses will typically need capital for new equipment, or to expand their business. A good credit limit will allow small business to access credit that would otherwise be inaccessible to small businesses. Bigger capital opens up the possibility of greater profits. These cards also offer the option of limiting one business's spending. This would be very useful for a business that is keeping a tight watch over its finances. Small business cards are quickly becoming an efficient way to increase buying power and capital. With these advantages, it may soon be that small businesses will regard these small business credit cards as a necessity. Small Business Consulting: Overcoming Unrealistic Expectations If you're new to small business consulting, you may think there is no such thing as a prospect or client being too enthusiastic about jumping headfirst into a major IT project. Enthusiasm is a good thing when it comes to signing your firm's small business consulting contract, right? Well, not always. Manage Clients' Optimism Although hype isn't exactly a sales obstacle, you need to manage client expectations regarding "unjustified" optimism at your earliest opportunity. During small business consulting projects, there is often a need to combat hype with vertical industry software solutions. Keeping Client's Expectations Realistic The small business owner or manager may return from a trade show with a gorgeous glossy brochure (and mouse pad) for an industry-specific application. Since your small business consulting client thinks the application is the best software since Lotus 1-2-3, he is ready to open up his firm's checkbook -- but wants to run the application by the internal guru and your small business consulting firm, first. Although the ISV's marketing literature and Web site seem quite professional, upon further investigation you learn this $5,000 per seat package is built on an MS-DOS-based Clipper database engine (circa 1991). The Bottom Line about Small Business Consulting While your client might have been impressed initially with the demo at the trade show, you need to overcome the hype surrounding the application and save your client from making a sizable investment in an application that should've been retired or supplanted years ago. Otherwise, your prospect or client may end up squandering scarce IT budgetary resources that could be better invested in the network solution that you're recommending. Small Business Consulting: Overcoming Client Denial When working in small business consulting, your clients may ask, "Why do I need something as big and powerful as the network you're recommending? We're just a seven person company and our network works great, at least most of the time." "Sell" Fear In this situation, to overcome denial, you often have to "sell" fear. Be ready to talk about a small business consulting client that trusted their PC-savvy bookkeeper so much, that the bookkeeper was covering her trails daily and able to embezzle $50K before getting caught during an annual audit by their CPA. Only naive clients believe in trusting every employee and for that matter every non-employee who has physical access to the building. Get Clients Thinking about Security In reality though, small business owners rarely think about IT security until it's too late. Make sure you get your small business consulting prospects and clients thinking about how much access should be granted. Get your prospects and clients thinking about sensitive files such as credit card numbers, social security numbers (in the U.S.), trade secrets, payroll data or annual employee reviews. Determine Client Needs When small business clients say they think your proposed client/server network is overkill, they might not be thinking of the big picture. That's all the more reason to take the small business consulting client through a comprehensive initial consultation, needs analysis, IT audit and site survey. Many times a small business owner might ask just for file sharing or e-mail. If you press further, however, you'll discover they also really need a contact management system, group scheduling, network faxing, a company Intranet and secure, high-speed Web browsing from each desktop. The Bottom Line about Small Business Consulting If small business consulting clients insist they have no need for data security, you probably haven't probed deeply enough. Find out where the client stores its client lists, proprietary pricing models, payroll forecasts, bonus calculations, credit card data and social security numbers. Small Business Consultants: Avoid Clients Using Peer-to-Peer Networks Very small businesses, those with less than a handful of PCs, often use informal peer-to-peer networks to share files and printers. This is in sharp contrast to a more robust client/server network with a dedicated server computer, and often selected to keep costs to a minimum. They are generally built around a consumer-oriented operating system, such as Microsoft Windows 98 or Microsoft Windows ME. Small Business Consultants and Peer-to-Peer Networks Don't Mix Although rarely utilized in the field, a business-grade desktop OS on a dedicated, business-class PC can provide a solid "happy medium" between extreme low-budget solutions and more robust (and more expensive) client/server solutions. For small business consultants however, peer-to-peer networks are generally not a good thing -- unless of course an upgrade is imminent. Peer-to-Peer Networks Often Come With Other Problems Since peer-to-peer networks are often selected to keep costs to a minimum, there is generally little or no budget for outside small business consultants or the owner or manager has plenty of funds, but just doesn't "believe" in the value of technology. Many times peer-to-peer networks go hand-in-hand with lots of other undesirable IT issues, such as a complete inattention to software licensing, data security, virus protection and data backup. The Bottom Line about Small Business Consultants On the flip side however, the above "IT-plagued" small business may be so fed up with the unreliable performance of their peer-to-peer network, the owner or manager may finally be receptive to your dedicated-server recommendations. And as their small business consultant, that's your golden opportunity! Small Business Computer Consulting: Smart Marketing In small business computer consulting, it can be easy to get yourself into money trouble really fast. Conserve your precious capital by avoiding some of the common mistakes when marketing your small business computer consulting firm. Perform Tests Whenever you're doing any marketing with your small business computer consulting firm, think about being able to run smaller, measured tests before making big marketing bets. It can be something as simple as direct mail. Don't mail five or ten thousand pieces your first time out of the gate. Don't put $2,500 or $5,000 or more on the line. Start Small and Focus on Your Target Market First, try a $500 test and see how your small business computer consulting firm does. If you're thinking that you absolutely must put an ad in the yellow pages or the newspaper, reconsider. There are much better ways than broadcasting to an audience where 95% of the people aren't interested. Small Bets are Less Risky If you are set on marketing your small business computer consulting firm in the yellow pages or newspaper, start smaller and test the waters with something on a smaller scale before you ramp up. Whenever you're making decisions on marketing and business development, think about small, measured bets before making big marketing bets so you can test things out, analyze all the results, track the number of inquiries and learn what happens to those inquiries. Small Business Computer Consulting: Finding the Right Prospects If you are starting a small business computer consulting firm, you should know that the small business accounts that have 10 to 50 PC's are going to have at least one branch office. Prospects of this size are used to using professional technology providers and this isn't the first time they've had to hire a small business computer consulting firm. Organizations like this have a willingness to pay for support. Does Your Prospect Have In-House IT? However, if they have in-house IT, you should learn what they need you for. Is it for a very deep specialty or for an extremely unusual case where they want to outsource everything? Researching Prospective Clients To find prospects for your small business computer consulting firm you should Google towns in your area, ZIP and postal codes, area code and telephone prefixes. Additionally, these prospects will usually belong to a local or regional chamber of commerce or similar organization. To meet some of these people and market your small business computer consulting firm, you can join the organizations or attend as a guest. Know Where to Find Your Prospects Your prospects will likely have presence at business to business events, so you can also attend these events to market your small business computer consulting firm. Since your target clients will often be covered in the business section of your local publications, you'll want to subscribe to these or read them at the library. The Bottom Line about Small Business Computer Consulting If you want to narrow down your focus to the best small businesses in the area, consider networking at local events and reading up on these businesses in your local publications. You want to pay attention to the criteria above and ensure you can identify your prospects right off the bat. Small Business Computer Consulting: Can You Hire Help? As a new small business computer consulting firm, you might ask what level of technical staff you can put on payroll. Don't get too excited yet; you have to be realistic about this. Of course, it varies by job market, but all things being equal, what kind of technical person will your small business computer consulting firm be able to find? Can you find someone that has the wide variety of intermediate to high end technical skills that are needed for larger small business clients if your technical salary budget is only $37,500 a year? The Need for Qualified Help Your small business computer consulting clients that have ten to fifty PC's are going to start to have much more sophisticated needs. You can't send someone in who's a glorified screwdriver technician. It doesn't work. Your small business computer consulting firm needs fairly high level people. Know What You Have to Offer On the flip side, on the demand generation side, what kind of polished B to B salesperson are you going to be able to find for your small business computer consulting firm if you can only offer a base salary of $27,500 a year? That extra $10,000 will need to be allocated to things like direct mail, having that person go to organization and networking meetings, sponsoring events, doing seminars and things along those lines. The Bottom Line about Small Business Computer Consulting Finding staff with skills for such low salaries is like Fantasy Island for most new small business computer consulting firms. It's very unlikely to happen. You, as the owner, are the only person, aside from maybe your spouse or another family member, who's going to be willing to work like a dog at way below market wages while the business is built up. Small Business Computer Consulting: Appropriately Setting Your Rates In small business computer consulting, $100 an hour can be a reasonable and livable rate. Why can setting your rates at $100 an hour make all the difference in the world? Take the $100 an hour and multiply it by 1,500 hours a year. This is reflecting a 75% utilization rate; or 75% of a typical forty hour work week as billable time. Now you're at $150,000 a year gross. Salary and Affordability As a small business computer consulting firm, you will want to take a third of the gross and plow it into sales and marketing. Therefore you can afford a $40,000 base salary for your sales account executive. So, of that one third of your gross small business computer consulting income, $40,000 can go to the base salary and $10,000 can go to related marketing expenses. Additionally, one third will take care of taxes, insurance and overhead items for the most part, and you have a third of it or $50,000 left to pay a technical staff salary. Surpassing $100 an Hour You may be considering exceeding a rate of $100 an hour for your small business computer consulting firm. At that point, you can hit what we call the not-so-imaginary-hourly-billing-rate ceiling. Needless to say, if your small business computer consulting clients are paying $110 to $125 an hour, it gets even easier to be able to afford really bright, motivated, highly qualified sales and technical staff. Higher Rates Equal Bigger Businesses However, if you want to charge above $100 an hour in your small business computer consulting firm, you'll almost always need to move above and beyond sweet spot small business clients into really large small businesses, medium size businesses and enterprise-sized accounts that require a different business model and technical skill set. Once you do that, you're going to be operating under a completely different type of business model. And you will need even more polished and seasoned salespeople to be able to handle those accounts.
InfoBank Intro | Main Page | Usenet Forums | Search The RockSite/The Web