Small Business Resource Center http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/10749/all en-US 3 Simple Ways Small Business Can Maximize Twitter http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-simple-ways-small-business-can-maximize-twitter <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-ways-small-businesses-can-maximize-twitter" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-ways-small-businesses-can-maximize-twitter</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/3-simple-ways-small-business-can-maximize-twitter" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018064981Small.jpg" alt="Woman at laptop" title="Woman at laptop" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-simple-ways-small-business-can-maximize-twitter" class="sharethis-link" title="3 Simple Ways Small Business Can Maximize Twitter" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>By now you've probably read, &quot;Your business needs to be on <a href="http://twitter.com/" target="_blank">Twitter</a>!&quot; in one small business marketing publication or another. But you may be asking yourself, &quot;How will Twitter help me improve my local small business?&quot;</p> <p>When we think of Twitter, we often think of celebrities, the media, and businesses with a national brand (and national customers). And Twitter probably makes sense to you in those instances.</p> <p>But maybe you're wondering how a local caterer, landscaper, or accounting firm can <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/75-top-twitter-tips-from-todays-small-business-moms-1" target="_blank">use Twitter to increase business</a> and referrals on a local level.</p> <p><b>1. Build Relationships First, Business Second</b></p> <p>Remember that Twitter is best used as a networking tool (and later a referral tool) for locally based businesses&mdash;not a sales pitch tool. You wouldn't walk into your local Chamber of Commerce meeting shouting your latest special over and over again every time someone walked up to you and said hello. And you shouldn't do it on Twitter either. Now that's not saying that you should never mention your business, but it shouldn't be more than a single digit percentage of your tweets.</p> <p>The point of Twitter is to network and create relationships like you would in real life. As a small business owner, creating real relationships through Twitter will often lead to more referrals and potential business than tweeting your latest special ever could.</p> <p>Need an example? Someone who follows <a href="http://twitter.com/sugarrae" target="_blank">me</a> on Twitter began conversing with me about a movie we both liked after I tweeted about it. We later found out that we also had a love of football in common. After multiple times of conversing back and forth, I ended up following the person back. Occasionally this person made mention that they owned a local fitness studio. About three months ago, a person I know in that locale tweeted saying they needed to get in shape. I tweeted back that so and so had a fitness studio where they lived and they should check it out. They did and ended up purchasing a membership.</p> <p>That's the potential for business generation and referral power by creating real relationships on Twitter.</p> <p><b>2. Make Local Connections</b></p> <p>So now that you know how Twitter can help you generate business and referrals, how do you find your local community on Twitter? A site called <a href="http://tweet.grader.com/" target="_blank">Twitter Grader</a> has made it a pretty easy process.</p> <p>If you're in a big metro locale, you'll likely find your city in the &quot;<a href="http://tweet.grader.com/top/cities" target="_blank">top cities</a>&quot; list. Let's say you live in San Diego. Click on San Diego from the top cities list and you'll quickly be given a list of the <a href="http://tweet.grader.com/location/?Location=San+Diego%2C+CA%2C+United+States" target="_blank">top 50 Twitter users</a> listing San Diego as their location in the Twitter bio.</p> <p>But what if you don't live in one of the &quot;top cities&quot; cited on Twitter Grader? Never fear. You can click on any top city link and find the locals in your area by performing a new search at the top of that page for your own location. Say you're on the San Diego page. Simply change out the &quot;San Diego, CA, United States&quot; in the search box at the top of the page with &quot;Your City, Your State, Your Country&quot; and click &quot;Go&quot; and you'll be presented with a listing of the top users in that city.</p> <p>Look at the bios of the users in your city and check out what they're tweeting about. Follow those you think you can find something in common with and/or that you'd be interested in learning more about.</p> <p>Remember that your goal is not to advertise your services to these people but rather to form local connections much like you would at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. I typically tell people to follow those you'd be interested in having coffee with if Twitter were &quot;real life&quot;.</p> <p>You can repeat this process for every city you can think of that your local business serves.</p> <p><b>3. Find Media Contacts</b></p> <p>Twitter is not only great for creating a referral network, but it can also be a great tool for gaining traditional media exposure for your business. Thousands upon thousands of journalists use Twitter. Much like you can seek out your local community on Twitter, you can also seek out the media that are local to you and/or specific to your niche as well. And a site named <a href="http://muckrack.com/" target="_blank">MuckRack</a> makes it incredibly easy.</p> <p>MuckRack tracks the accounts of thousands of journalists on Twitter and various other social media networks. You can view their <a href="http://muckrack.com/publications" target="_blank">publications list</a> to find the Twitter accounts of all the reporters at specific publications such as <a href="http://muckrack.com/directory/charlotteobserver">The Charlotte Observer</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="http://muckrack.com/plans" target="_blank">paid version of MuckRack</a> also allows you to search by &quot;beats&quot; and topics to help you find reporters specific to your niche. While the pricing (starting at $99 per month) may be a bit hefty for many small business budgets, there is no minimum term or contract. So you can always sign up for one month and get as much &quot;advanced information&quot; as you can during that time.</p> <p>As with making local contacts, the point of identifying these journalists is to attempt to create relationships with them and get on their radar long before you have a story idea to pitch or potentially offer up your expertise for their latest story.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/rae-hoffman-dolan">Rae Hoffman-Dolan</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center marketing networking small business social media twitter twitter strategy Thu, 05 Jan 2012 18:23:29 +0000 Rae Hoffman-Dolan 844412 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Exceedingly Simple Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Website http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-exceedingly-simple-ways-to-get-more-traffic-to-your-website <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-exceedingly-simple-ways-to-get-more-traffic-to-your-website" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-exceedingly-simple-ways-to-get-more-traffic-...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-exceedingly-simple-ways-to-get-more-traffic-to-your-website" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000015288443Small.jpg" alt="Excited businessman with laptop" title="Excited businessman with laptop" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="165" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-exceedingly-simple-ways-to-get-more-traffic-to-your-website" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Exceedingly Simple Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Website" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>On January 1st, 2011 my brand new business&mdash;<a href="http://passivepanda.com/" target="_blank">PassivePanda.com</a>&mdash;had received exactly zero visitors.</p> <p>Eleven months later, the website has received over 350,000 unique visitors and almost 750,000 page views. Even better, we have built an email list of over 10,000 people and gained hundreds of customers. I still have a lot to learn, but it's safe to say that things are going well.</p> <p>What's the primary difference between my business on January 1, 2011 and January 1, 2012?</p> <p>Traffic.</p> <p>You can't do anything without people &quot;coming in the door.&quot; Here are five stupidly simple ways to attract visitors to your site and keep them coming back.</p> <p><b>1. Start a Newsletter List</b></p> <p>Without a doubt, the number one thing you can do to increase traffic is to start a newsletter list.</p> <p>Here's why...</p> <p>An email list is the best way to build recurring traffic. By sending out emails to your newsletter list about upcoming events, new products and promotions, or even new articles on your blog, you can guarantee that visitors will continue to return to your site instead of hoping that people will show up when you have something important to say.</p> <p><b>2. Get the Word Out With Guest Posts</b></p> <p>Guest posting is a simple strategy where you create content such as an article, an audio session, or a video lesson for another website. Why would you do this? Because it can drive traffic back to your site.</p> <p>It doesn't matter what you're trying to sell with your business, there are websites and blogs that cater to those people already. Your future customers are hanging out somewhere online. It's your job to get in front of them and share what you know.</p> <p>Typically, at the end of your guest post, there will be a spot where you can link to your website. If you guest post for high-profile sites, then you should have no problem driving traffic back to your website.</p> <p><b>3. Brand Yourself as an Expert Through Interviews</b></p> <p>In addition to sharing your knowledge through guest posts, you can also share your brand or story through interviews.</p> <p>There are many sites looking to do product reviews, talk with entrepreneurs, or interview people on recent events in the industry. Reach out to these people. Tell them your story and mention that you're available for an interview if they are looking.</p> <p>Free promotion like this can help drive all sorts of people to your site&mdash;and save you money on marketing and advertising.</p> <p><b>4. Use Social Media Strategically</b></p> <p>Social media can be a decent traffic driver&mdash;if you do the opposite of what most people do.</p> <p>If you have a decent social media presence for your company, then you can try to drive traffic through your audience. In most cases, however, you'll be better served by connecting with a social media influencer and sharing your information with them.</p> <p>There are many news sites, media outlets, and individuals that have access to hundreds of thousands of people through their social media pages. Reach out to them, say hello, and share your content in a friendly way. If you build a solid relationship, these people can become large drivers of traffic to your business.</p> <p><b>5. Use the Power of Search</b></p> <p>Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a powerful tool.</p> <p>If you can rank #1 in Google for a popular phrase, then the big G will send all sorts of visitors your way. SEO is far too broad of a topic to cover here, but you can learn a lot about <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/6-common-seo-mistakes-on-small-business-websites" target="_blank">SEO on OPENForum</a>. And for an in depth look at the fundamentals, be sure to read <a href="http://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/" target="_blank">the tutorial</a> created by the SEO experts at Yoast.</p> <p>At the least, I recommend doing some minimal keyword research and using the proper tags and headings. If you do only those three things, then you'll see some benefit without too much effort.</p> <p><b>And the #1 Thing You Need To Do...</b></p> <p>Actually try all the suggestions above.</p> <p>The only thing that separated my site from many others was that I actually implemented the five steps I mentioned here. Everyone else talks about this stuff, but few people actually do it. Don't make the mistake of knowing what to, but failing to execute on it.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/james-clear">James Clear</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center email marketing online marketing small business website website traffic Tue, 03 Jan 2012 19:10:08 +0000 James Clear 844417 at http://www.wisebread.com Use a Business Budget Checklist to Capture Fleeing Cash http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/use-a-business-budget-checklist-to-capture-fleeing-cash <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/use-a-business-budget-checklist-to-capture-fleeing-cash-1" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/use-a-business-budget-checklist-to-capture-fle...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/use-a-business-budget-checklist-to-capture-fleeing-cash" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000017287911Small.jpg" alt="Hand catching falling change" title="Hand catching falling change" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="165" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/use-a-business-budget-checklist-to-capture-fleeing-cash" class="sharethis-link" title="Use a Business Budget Checklist to Capture Fleeing Cash" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Oh, money. We love it. We hate it. And when it runs low, we panic and scramble to find ways to get more of it.</p> <p>Since your business can&rsquo;t run effectively on a money roller coaster, it&rsquo;s a good idea to plump up your operating budget. <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/where-to-save-and-where-to-spend" target="_blank">Overspending on business goods</a> and services can cut into your bottom line in a hurry. However, a few simple changes can help you pad your bank balances with more greenbacks. Consider this easy checklist to help cut costs and halt overspending.</p> <p><b>Advertising</b></p> <p>Take a look at all the advertising opportunities you&rsquo;re currently paying for. This might be a box ad on a blog or website or a listing in a business directory. Immediately stop any paid advertising that&rsquo;s not bringing a favorable return. Or simply don&rsquo;t renew the ad when your contract with the advertiser runs out. Instead, look for free advertising and marketing advertising to help save some cash.</p> <p><b>Business Supplies</b></p> <p>Shiny things are so pretty, aren&rsquo;t they? Often, pretty things come with a high price tag. If you&rsquo;re compelled to purchase those fancy office supplies with bright colors and pretty prints, resist! You don&rsquo;t need argyle print file boxes to run your business; save your cash by purchasing standard, economical office supplies. Have ink cartridges refilled instead of buying new. Buy economical supplies in bulk to help save money if you can.</p> <p><b>Services</b></p> <p>Business services are a broad area with huge potential for saving you money. Did you settle on any one or more service simply because checking around was too much work? If you didn&rsquo;t take the time to compare services before choosing one, you&rsquo;re probably paying too much for it. Cut back on services you don&rsquo;t use and shop around for a comparable service with cheaper fees. A service with the highest price tag doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s better&mdash;it was just better at snagging you into overspending! Services you may be able to save on includes:</p> <ul> <li>Internet and web hosting;</li> <li>Phone services;</li> <li>Printing services;</li> <li>Newsletter hosting.</li> </ul> <p>You can find many reduced-price services that offer a great product. For example, consider using Skype for conference or telephone calls with clients to help cut your phone bill. <a href="http://www.kall8.com/index.php" target="_blank">Kall8.com</a> offers fax services and business phone line hosting for a very reasonable fee. Skip high printing fees by tackling business card printing yourself or price-comparing printing companies. You can also create business forms, like order forms, in Microsoft Word and email them to customers to help save on printing and postage fees. With a little creative brainstorming, you can effectively stop overspending on services without sacrificing quality.</p> <p><b>Equipment</b></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re looking to make new equipment purchases, like office furniture or electronics, be sure to be patient and shop around. Instead of overpaying on brand new office equipment, consider finding gently used items for a fraction of the cost. Watch your local newspaper for business liquidations or auctions to see if you can snag furniture, filing and storage units, and other business essentials for less than buying new. Also, don&rsquo;t discount purchasing off-brand products. You may be able to find new electronics at a reasonable cost vs. paying a much higher price for a comparable, name-brand product.</p> <p>Resist the urge to upgrade your electronics each time a newer model comes out. It may be tempting to show off the latest electronic gadget; however if it really doesn&rsquo;t add value to your business, you&rsquo;ve just overspent big time.</p> <p><b>Fees</b></p> <p>You could be overpaying for business fees without even realizing it. Common business fees include:</p> <ul> <li>Bank and financial fees;</li> <li>Business credit card fees;</li> <li>Organization fees;</li> <li>Subscription fees.</li> </ul> <p>These fees usually happen automatically, so you&rsquo;re less likely to give them a lot of thought. Consider meeting with your bank to see if there are options for lower fees on financial services, like your bank accounts, credit cards or line of credit. If not, shop around for a financial institution that offers better rates and fees.</p> <p>Organization and subscription fees usually happen yearly. Before you pay out again, consider if you even actively use these subscriptions, such as trade magazine or business periodical subscriptions. If you pay fees to belong to the Chamber of Commerce or small business groups, are you an active participant? Or did you join and forget about it?</p> <p>It is not always easy to take an honest look at our business spending practices. But, to avoid a death spiral of financial fall-out, being honest and proactive can keep your business afloat and thriving, even in hard times.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/justine-grey">Justine Grey</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business expenses cost cutting cost savings costs fees small business Mon, 02 Jan 2012 18:59:55 +0000 Justine Grey 844416 at http://www.wisebread.com The Art of Sucking Up http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-art-of-sucking-up <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-art-of-sucking-up" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-art-of-sucking-up</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/the-art-of-sucking-up" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000016804953Small.jpg" alt="Woman giving thumbs up" title="Woman giving thumbs up" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-art-of-sucking-up" class="sharethis-link" title="The Art of Sucking Up" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Nobody likes a suck-up.</p> <p>Well, that&rsquo;s not true at all, is it?</p> <p>Nobody likes a suck-up who sucks at it. People absolutely adore a good suck-up. And a good suck-up is a good friend, and people look out for their friends. &ldquo;What a grand-slam of a guy,&rdquo; people say about the master class suck-up. &ldquo;Always knows what to say. We should help him and his business out in any way we can!&rdquo;</p> <p>At its base, sucking up is misunderstood as flattery. Good sucking up isn&rsquo;t flattery. It&rsquo;s making people feel good and comfortable in their own skin while being honest and still getting done what needs to get done. And it&rsquo;s an essential art in networking and business.</p> <p><b>Sucking Up, Defined</b></p> <p>As the boss, you might think you have no one to suck up to. Oh, how wrong you are.</p> <p>You have much to gain from mastering the art of &ldquo;Making People Feel Good About Themselves and In Turn, You.&rdquo; Sucking up isn&rsquo;t just straight calculated manipulation&mdash;we&rsquo;ll leave the Machiavellian politicking to Machiavelli, thank you kindly. The art of sucking up, rather, is merely recognizing how to tell the truth in the best possible way while giving a tune-up to other people&rsquo;s egos by letting them know, hey, I understand (and maybe you should understand anyways.) Good sucking up is both accomplishing objectives while making people feel good about the outcome&mdash;all without lying or misrepresenting anything.</p> <p>Egos are other people&rsquo;s engines. And here are some tips on servicing that engine.</p> <p><b>Empathize</b></p> <p>There&rsquo;s not much difference between the truth and how you tell the truth. Interpretation is wildly subjective, and the good suck-up recognizes that a person&rsquo;s actions, foibles, and follies can almost always be viewed in a positive manner. You just have to recognize that people&rsquo;s weaknesses are also, in the right light, their strengths. And you&rsquo;re more like other people than you might have realized.</p> <p>Sucking up well is being vulnerable and empathetic. When sucking up, don&rsquo;t shy away from <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-steps-to-giving-feedback-without-sounding-mean" target="_blank">talking about people&rsquo;s weaknesses</a>. But don&rsquo;t be afraid to share your own. A good suck up explores areas previously thought of as a weakness, and shares in those wonderful deficiencies. And then shares a good cry (not really, unless that comes about organically. Then congratulations on the wonderful breakthrough.)</p> <p><b>Be Sparing in Your Sucking Up</b></p> <p>Nothing clogs things up quite like flooding people with a torrent of suck-up. If you get known for sucking up indiscriminately your words will have less impact. This doesn&rsquo;t mean you should adopt the attitude of the stern father who keeps everyone driven by withholding love and kind words (though that tactic has been exceptionally popular for the last few thousand years.) But don&rsquo;t get branded as someone insincere who just vomits up compliments left and right.</p> <p>A good suck up&rsquo;s words carry weight because they both are thoughtful and spare. And unusual. Yes, unusual.</p> <p><b>Don&rsquo;t Tell People What They Already Know</b></p> <p>A bad suck up is an echo chamber. They merely regurgitate the party line of positive comments that have been said a thousand times. A bad suck up tells other people what they already know they&rsquo;re good at doing, and likewise gets drowned out.</p> <p>A good suck up, on the other hand, looks to enforce previously undiscovered attributes of those around him or her. As stated above, weaknesses in the right light are strengths. What are the possibly positive attributes of the people around you that nobody notices? Would it help them out to know that other people recognize it? A good suck up thinks about these things. And stays consistent.</p> <p><b>Don&rsquo;t Lie! Really, Don&rsquo;t!</b></p> <p>As noted above, there&rsquo;s a few different ways to say things. But at the kernel of every subjective viewpoint is what you truly believe. While there is a positive way of viewing things, this doesn&rsquo;t mean that you can just starting making stuff up. Because unless you are keeping scrupulous notes, you&rsquo;re not going to be able to keep track of all the BS you&rsquo;ve been making up. Not to mention, you&rsquo;ll be a &ldquo;liar, liar pants on fire,&rdquo; and nobody likes one of those.</p> <p>Mark Twain said, &ldquo;If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.&rdquo; As you get older, you&rsquo;re going to get worse at remembering things. And at press time you are currently aging. Thus, your memory is currently getting worse. So make it easy on yourself. Suck up well, but never lie. Just don&rsquo;t forget how you told the truth.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/jacob-harper">Jacob Harper</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business relationships networking relationship building small business Mon, 02 Jan 2012 18:32:30 +0000 Jacob Harper 844414 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Reasons People Resist Change http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-reasons-people-resist-change <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-reasons-people-resist-change" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-reasons-people-resist-change</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-reasons-people-resist-change" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018483708Small.jpg" alt="Chalkboard with change written on it" title="Chalkboard with change written on it" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-reasons-people-resist-change" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Reasons People Resist Change" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>I used to believe that there were two kinds of people:</p> <ol> <li>People who thrive on change; and</li> <li>People who avoid change.</li> </ol> <p>The former are inspired by freshness, embrace novel experiences, and jump at opportunities to instigate innovations. The latter seek stability, enter new situations cautiously, and place roadblocks before the slightest mention of anything different.</p> <p>Now I realize that there is a third category: people who want change at a conceptual level but are not willing to do anything risky in order to achieve it.</p> <p>They are intellectually curious and enjoy newness yet hinder initiatives with their indecision and procrastination. Repeatedly (and predictably), they reject new ideas just as relentlessly as they express concern that too much has stayed the same.</p> <p>In short, Types 2 and 3 resist change. They avoid, dismiss, and sabotage those who want to move forward in any area including:</p> <ul> <li>Pursuit of a new customer segment;</li> <li>Deployment of a new technology or work process;</li> <li>Launch of a new product;</li> <li>Introduction of new techniques for sales, marketing, and customer service.</li> </ul> <p>Understanding why they avoid newness is a key step in overcoming resistance. Addressing these specific concerns can help build a team that will evaluate new opportunities based on merit and not fear.</p> <p><b>1. She believes that her productivity will plummet and stress will skyrocket. </b></p> <p>After years of mastering her job duties, she has developed an efficient routine. When employees bring problems to her attention, she provides direction by following a self-developed, mental image of a decision tree with a limited number of variables. The simplicity of day-to-day tasks and the knowledge that she can easily complete assignments on time, on budget, on spec are comforting.</p> <p>Changes will bring complexity to her job. Decisions will require developing new road maps. The mental heavy lifting that she anticipates will be exhausting. This extra time and effort will certainly detract from her productivity, output, and peace of mind.</p> <p><b><i>Fix</i></b><i>:</i> Establish a new performance metric when changes are introduced. If possible, move away from activity-based measures to assessments of creative output and profitable results. Plus, give her enough time to assimilate new ways of doing her job and plenty of space to solve problems that require intense concentration.</p> <p><b>2. He thinks that embracing change means admitting past mistakes. </b></p> <p>He believes that championing new work processes or pursuing new customer segments, for example, are equivalent to publicly acknowledging that previous procedures caused errors or marketing programs didn&rsquo;t deliver the right kinds of customers.</p> <p><b><i>Fix</i></b><i>: </i>Reassure him that changes being proposed reflect technological advances, emergence of new segments, or other recent happenings that have impacted the business. Emphasize the need for continual renewal, not as an indictment of the past, but as a strategy for ongoing success.</p> <p><b>3. She is unable to learn from her failures.</b></p> <p>She is not afraid of failure <i>per se</i>, and accepts that changes may not bring immediate results. What she fears is her inability to understand what factors influence success. Navigating change is like falling into an abyss rather than interpreting clues on a hidden-treasure map.</p> <p>For example, she might express concerns about updating the features of a previous best-selling style. Her hesitation to introduce modifications has nothing to do with her perceived inconsistency between product characteristics and customer desires. Instead, her resistance masks her lack of analytical and problem solving skills. In the past, she has blamed failures on economic conditions, poor timing, and misunderstanding on the part of customers. Unable to pinpoint (or at least guess) the reasons for certain outcomes and then make adjustments that improve results, she avoids change altogether.</p> <p><b><i>Fix</i></b><i>:</i> Teach her how to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-learn-from-your-mistakes" target="_blank">learn from her mistakes</a>, whether they lead to full-flung failures or lower-than-expected performance. Encourage her to articulate assumptions and predict likely outcomes of proposed changes; then show her how to evaluate results in light of the accuracy of these assumptions. By giving her the skills to learn from potentially risky moves, she should feel more comfortable with change and confident about her ability to correct missteps and keep moving forward.</p> <p><b>4. He is unsure of his ability to handle problems that may arise as a consequence of change. </b></p> <p>He is eager to positively impact the company but is reluctant to implement new ideas. The side effects of change may involve handling situations that he does not fully understand and dealing with consequences that he cannot predict or control.</p> <p>For example, he believes that <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/how-to-claim-your-online-identity-and-keep-it-relevant" target="_blank">claiming the company&rsquo;s online listing</a> could be beneficial to marketing efforts. But the prospect of having to interact with customers who rate the business is unfamiliar to him. So he downplays the benefits in order to dodge possible headaches in the future and avoid revealing lack of competency in this area.</p> <p><b><i>Fix</i></b><i>:</i> Identify known negatives that will likely surface as byproducts of changes. Investigate, identify, and implement best practices for dealing with these situations. Acknowledge that unpredictable things may happen, ask him to alert you to these instances as soon as they occur, and assure him that you will handle problems quickly.</p> <p><b>5. She wants to preserve her status among colleagues and employees. </b></p> <p>She enjoys her title, position description, and place in the organizational chart. The existing hierarchy allows her to get things done. Her colleagues and employees respect her, and she does not want to jeopardize these relationships for shaky ones with another group. She especially wants to avoid scenarios that put her in conflict with long-time associates.</p> <p><b><i>Fix</i></b><i>:</i> Tell her the truth that her current job and existing relationships are increasingly becoming irrelevant as the competitive landscape changes, key customers merge or go out of business, etc. The new organization will challenge her alliances but also position her and the business more favorably in the long term. At the same time, uncover and address any areas of conflict among work groups, and coach her on methods of interacting with different personalities.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center change employee management employee motivation leadership skills small business Mon, 02 Jan 2012 18:10:44 +0000 Julie Rains 844411 at http://www.wisebread.com 3 Tax Reasons to Sell Your Business in 2012 http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-tax-reasons-to-sell-your-business-in-2012 <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-tax-reasons-to-sell-your-business-in-2012" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-tax-reasons-to-sell-your-business-in-2012</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/3-tax-reasons-to-sell-your-business-in-2012" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000016195657Small.jpg" alt="Fish market owners" title="Fish market owners" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-tax-reasons-to-sell-your-business-in-2012" class="sharethis-link" title="3 Tax Reasons to Sell Your Business in 2012" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p><a href="http://www.bizbuysell.com/news/media_insight.html" target="_blank">Data</a> show that <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/why-now-is-the-time-to-buy-a-business" target="_blank">sales of small businesses</a> are slightly on the rise. If you&rsquo;re thinking about selling your business, this year may be the best time to do it. The appraised value of your business and your personal goals are, of course, the primary factors in deciding when to sell a business. However, you may realize a greater after-tax return in 2012 than if you delay a sale until 2013 or later. Here are three tax reasons why selling in 2012 may prove advantageous.</p> <p><b>1. Low Capital Gain Rates</b></p> <p>The historically low capital gain rate of 15 percent for most capital gains applies for 2012. It is unclear what the rate will be after 2012; much depends on election results, the state of the economy, and other factors.</p> <p>If allowed to expire as scheduled at the end of 2012, the capital gain rate could revert in 2013 to its previous level of 20 percent. A five percent increase costs you $50,000 in additional federal income taxes for every $1 million in profit. Alternatively, Congress could raise the rate even higher, or create a higher rate exclusively for high-income taxpayers.</p> <p><b>2. No Additional Medicare Tax</b></p> <p>On top of any additional capital gains tax, it may cost you nearly four percent more in new taxes for delaying a sale to 2013 rather than completing it in 2012. The reason? There is an additional Medicare tax of 3.8 percent that begins in 2013 on unearned income (i.e., investment income). More specifically, the tax is 3.8 percent of the lesser of <i>net investment income</i> or modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) in excess of the following amounts based on filing status:</p> <ul> <li>$250,000 for joint filers;</li> <li>$200,000 for singles;</li> <li>$125,000 for married persons filing separately.</li> </ul> <p><i>Net investment income</i> includes gain from the sale of property (other than in the course of business). Thus, it applies to the sale of an interest in a business. However, when selling an interest in a partnership, limited liability company, or S corporation, only the net gain attributable to property held by the entity which is not attributable to an active trade or business is taken into account. This technical rule means that not all of an owner&rsquo;s gain may be subject to the Medicare surtax tax; some may be exempt because it is not viewed as net investment income.</p> <p><b>3. Other Unfavorable Tax Rules After 2012</b></p> <p>Tax changes on the horizon may support making a sale now:</p> <ul> <li>Federal income tax rules may make it more costly to operate a business in the future, so you may want to get out while you can. For example, starting in 2014, companies with 50 or more employees are required to provide health coverage (unless the U.S. Supreme Court declares this to be unconstitutional). This could depress the price of a business on the sales block.<br /> &nbsp;</li> <li>Federal estate and gift tax rules, which are highly favorable in 2012, are unclear thereafter. If an owner sells a business in 2012, he or she may want to engage in estate planning and the opportunities for doing this successfully abound in 2012. For example, there is a $5 million federal gift tax exclusion that can be used to gift some of an owner&rsquo;s profits from the sale to family members on a gift-tax-free basis. What will happen to estate and gift tax rules in 2013 is anyone&rsquo;s guess.</li> </ul> <p><b>Final Word</b></p> <p>When selling a business, taxes should be factored in to determine how much of the profits from the sale you get to keep. If you decide to sell, be sure to work with a knowledgeable tax advisor so that the deal is structured for optimum tax advantage.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/barbara-weltman">Barbara Weltman</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business sale capital gains tax small business taxes Mon, 02 Jan 2012 17:46:37 +0000 Barbara Weltman 844409 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Key Characteristics of the Entrepreneurial Mind http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-key-characteristics-of-the-entrepreneurial-mind <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-essential-characteristics-of-the-entrepreneurial-mind" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-essential-characteristics-of-the-entrepreneu...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-key-characteristics-of-the-entrepreneurial-mind" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018491243Small.jpg" alt="Corporate leader" title="Corporate leader" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-key-characteristics-of-the-entrepreneurial-mind" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Key Characteristics of the Entrepreneurial Mind" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Inventors, business owners, and corporate superstars who reshape and remake companies are some of our strongest cultural heroes. They reflect an essential part of the American story&mdash;the story of the average person who sees an opportunity, seizes it, and in the process creates something new.</p> <p>But what do <a target="_blank" href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/managing/article/10-signs-you-shouldnt-be-a-small-business-owner">these entrepreneurs share</a>? What qualities or ways of thinking characterize the entrepreneurial mind, and can this type of innovative thinking be cultivated in others? Let&rsquo;s explore some of hallmarks of entrepreneurial thinking to better understand how it works and how we can challenge and bend our own thinking to achieve better results.</p> <p><b>1. Creativity</b></p> <p>The seed of all true entrepreneurship is the ability to see things differently. From new products to new processes, entrepreneurs are driven by the uncanny knack to see holes in the marketplace and devise innovations to fill them. Though it&rsquo;s not the only essential quality to success, creativity may be the foundational mental skill. Entrepreneurs ask the &ldquo;what ifs&rdquo; that drive inquisitiveness, and they&rsquo;re able to let go of what they already know to source fresh information and new ways of thinking about a problem.</p> <p><b>2. Suspicion of Predictors</b></p> <p>Entrepreneurs tend not to labor under the assumption that data is the sole predictor of an outcome. Especially in new markets and with new products where data is largely interpretive or extrapolated, entrepreneurs are undaunted by the typical predictors that may put off fainter hearts. One study by <i>Inc.</i> magazine found that nearly 60 percent of Inc. 500 CEOs had not written business plans prior to the launch of their companies, and only 12 percent had done market research. These entrepreneurs realize that creating something new is a heated evolutionary contest, and no one can know the outcome with any amount of certainty. It&rsquo;s as if their thinking, freed from the &ldquo;no&rsquo;s&rdquo; of the data, can begin to build, test, and refine.</p> <p><b>3. Comfort with Uncertainty</b></p> <p>Similarly, a distrust of prediction and analysis creates an atmosphere where uncertainty rules. Indeed, uncertainty is the very essence of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are comfortable existing in that space between raw idea and successful product, and they tend to thrive in the wide middle ground of experimentation, revision, and testing.</p> <p><b>4. Openness to Experimentation</b></p> <p>A comfort with experimentation goes beyond educated trial and error. The ability to experiment with products, processes, and outcomes no matter where the results may lead is the key element of this quality. It&rsquo;s difficult to fully appreciate how much of what we call &ldquo;experimental&rdquo; is actually quite predictable. Most people are comfortable testing new products or systems with a range of one or two possible outcomes. When the results fall nicely within the range, we move on to the next step. But for entrepreneurs who are bringing something new and novel to the marketplace, experimentation can be truly&hellip;experimental. Removing expectations and letting the results lead you in completely new directions is the attribute that marks a truly entrepreneurial mind.</p> <p><b>5. Functional Humility</b></p> <p>Egos can destroy the very best ideas. Entrepreneurs who are committed to solving a business problem or reinventing a product or service display a functional humility. They understand that their egos are only useful in moving the idea forward, not dictating outcomes or wrestling to make results conform to a preconceived notion. The very best entrepreneurs may constantly generate and promote their own ideas, but they think and act collaboratively and are staunchly solutions-focused.</p> <p>So can everyone have an entrepreneurial mind? Probably not. But with time and practice, we can begin to think more like entrepreneurs. We can start to make subtle shifts in old, reflexive thinking that keeps us from exploring a new idea or taking the leap and launching our own business. Entrepreneurial thinking may be less of a destination and more of journey as we push our own boundaries and explore exactly what we&rsquo;re capable of. There are few things more elemental than how we think&mdash;what kind of beneficial chaos could we create if we began to think differently?</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center entrepreneur characteristics entrepreneurship leadership small business Fri, 30 Dec 2011 17:59:36 +0000 Kentin Waits 844410 at http://www.wisebread.com The Fundamentals of Socially Responsible Business http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-fundamentals-of-socially-responsible-business <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-fundamentals-of-socially-responsible-business" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-fundamentals-of-socially-responsible-busin...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/the-fundamentals-of-socially-responsible-business" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018038119Small.jpg" alt="Businessperson holding a plant" title="Businessperson holding a plant" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-fundamentals-of-socially-responsible-business" class="sharethis-link" title="The Fundamentals of Socially Responsible Business" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p><i>Sustainability</i> is a hot button topic today. Even venture capital firms are betting on corporate social responsibility (CSR), as the broader topic is called. People are building on, and buying into, the premise that businesses are part of society and have a responsibility to create a better future.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re starting a new business and intend to base it on a socially responsible model, it will pay you (literally) to fully understand the concept. You should also know, though, that some people don&rsquo;t like the idea. Keep reading, and we&rsquo;ll help you understand both sides of the story and offer five tips for starting a socially responsible business.</p> <p><b>What Is Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability?</b></p> <p>In <a href="http://www.wbcsd.org/web/publications/csr2000.pdf" target="_blank"><i>Corporate Social Responsibility: Making Good Business Sense</i></a>, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines the strategy as, &ldquo;&hellip;the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large.&rdquo;</p> <p>One of the key themes of social responsibility is support for practices that meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the future&mdash;sustainability. A business strategy based on sustainability is designed to balance profit, people, and planet (economic, social, and environmental) demands to create a desirable &ldquo;<a href="http://www.economist.com/node/14301663" target="_blank">triple bottom line</a>.&rdquo;</p> <p>But general agreement on what sustainability really means doesn&rsquo;t exist yet. Indeed, <a href="http://www.zerogrowth.org/sustaindev.html" target="_blank">some environmentalists consider sustainability an oxymoron</a> because, to them, sustainability and development are contradictory.</p> <p><b>The Argument in Favor of CSRs</b></p> <p>&ldquo;Doing good&rdquo; seems desirable, in principal, but is it a worthwhile business model? Although linking profits to abstract variables is tough, <a href="http://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/corporations/corporate-social-responsibility-and-financial-performance/" target="_blank">a meta-analysis of 52 studies</a> concluded, &ldquo;...corporate virtue in the form of social responsibility and, to a lesser extent, environmental responsibility is rewarding in more ways than one.&rdquo;</p> <p>Market forces, researchers found, don&rsquo;t penalize companies that are high in corporate social performance, and the strategy <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/using-green-practices-to-market-your-business" target="_blank">can have a distinct positive impact</a> on market analysts, public interest groups, or the media. In other words, CSR does find its way to both the triple bottom line and the traditional bottom line.</p> <p><b>The Argument Against</b></p> <p>Using corporate resources for social purposes is a irresponsible waste of shareholder profits, some experts claim. Indeed, at least one critic thinks CSR is nothing more than socialism with a modern name.</p> <p>Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman was a vocal opponent of CSR. In a <a href="http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a> article he wrote:</p> <p>&ldquo;<i>...businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned &quot;merely&quot; with profit but also with promoting desirable &quot;social&quot; ends; that business has a &quot;social conscience&quot; and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of re&shy;formers. In fact they are</i>&mdash;<i>or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously</i>&mdash;<i>preaching pure and unadulterated socialism.&rdquo;</i></p> <p>Other critics suggest that even when companies make donations to charity, they&rsquo;re really just giving away shareholders&rsquo; money. Still others claim that CSR helps companies avoid regulations, inappropriately gain legitimacy, and wheedle their way into markets and the minds of decision makers. Some cynics even suggest that CSR lets businesses create bad solutions to social and environmental problems and then shift the blame to consumers&mdash;it&rsquo;s easier to spin than to change.</p> <p><b>How Do You Start CSR Business?</b></p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve found the argument in favor convincing, you don&rsquo;t have to have a business idea based on green energy or saving an endangered species to start a CSR. Do what you do best and keep the environment, work-life fit, poverty, healthcare, equality and other issues in the forefront. Be honest and transparent.</p> <ol> <li><b>Decide on what you&rsquo;re going to do</b>. Take a hint from 3M. They started making &ldquo;cool roofing granules&rdquo; which are four times more reflective than conventional roofing material so their product reduces heat absorption and, as a result, cooling costs.</li> <li><b>Educate yourself</b>. You don't have to have a college degree, but you do need to understand who your customers, competitors, and suppliers are. Talk to people who do what you want to do. Even consider working for them to learn the ropes. Join industry associations, and learn everything you can from them.</li> <li><b>Create a business and marketing plan. </b>Most entrepreneurs can describe their product in great detail, but don&rsquo;t have a clue who they&rsquo;re going to sell to, or how. Think through a marketing strategy that defines your target consumer and how you&rsquo;re going to reach them. <a href="http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217768" target="_blank">The important part of your plan is the thinking, not the document</a>.</li> <li><b>Find money</b>. Your best bet is savings, friends and family, bank loans, &ldquo;angel investors,&rdquo; and formal venture capital sources&mdash;in that order. You might even find a <a href="http://www.grants.gov/" target="_blank">grant</a>. <a href="http://findingmoneyadvice.com/" target="_blank">Finding Money Advice</a>, a website I helped create, has the essentials.</li> <li><b>Execute</b>. Businesses usually fold because owners and managers fail to execute. Great ideas are a dime a dozen, but success is the result of making them happen.</li> </ol> <p><b>CSR Business Plan Considerations</b></p> <p>It&rsquo;s difficult to differentiate yourself merely with CSR. The barrier to entry is low; anyone can claim social responsibility.</p> <ul> <li>Your CSR efforts have to be aligned with your business or you will be seen as insincere.</li> <li>Consistency is crucial. Don&rsquo;t send mixed messages. Most of all, practice what you preach. You can&rsquo;t claim environmental friendliness, for example, and pollute at the same time.</li> <li>Make sure your CSR strategy is feasible. Walmart, with low prices and narrow margins, didn&rsquo;t lobby for higher minimum wages out of social responsibility; it was a competitive strategy to make it harder on the Mom &amp; Pop stores they compete against. Instead, they promote their efforts to &ldquo;go green&rdquo; by cutting energy costs and pressuring suppliers to be more fuel efficient. Some would say both seem predatory. You don&rsquo;t want to go there.</li> </ul> <p>Finally, follow the <a href="http://www.williamjamesfoundation.org/" target="_blank">William James Foundation</a> socially responsible business plan competition. They work with entrepreneurs at the idea and early venture stage to build social and environmental goals into their business. As they put it, &ldquo;there is no business to be done on a dead planet&hellip; By encouraging entrepreneurs who can both create their own success and show others financially viable paths to a more sustainable world, the William James Foundation is creating opportunities around the world for individuals to support for themselves, their loved ones, their community, and their planet at the same time.&rdquo;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tom-harnish">Tom Harnish</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center corporate social responsibility CSR small business sustainability sustainable business Thu, 29 Dec 2011 18:51:37 +0000 Tom Harnish 844415 at http://www.wisebread.com The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: For Love or Money? http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-entrepreneur-s-dilemma-for-love-or-money <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-entrepreneurs-dilemma-for-love-or-money" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/the-entrepreneurs-dilemma-for-love-or-money</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/the-entrepreneur-s-dilemma-for-love-or-money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000016122694Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/the-entrepreneur-s-dilemma-for-love-or-money" class="sharethis-link" title="The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: For Love or Money?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>We&rsquo;ve all heard the phrase, &ldquo;follow your passion and money will come.&rdquo;</p> <p>When you&rsquo;re thinking about starting your own business, this phrase might not be very comforting. There are no guarantees of monetary success with entrepreneurial endeavors. In a troubled economy like this one, however, there really isn&rsquo;t a guarantee when you work for someone else either. So, if leaving a day job to pursue your entrepreneurial passion seems like a good idea, what&rsquo;s holding you back?</p> <p>Likely, many things are. One of the big trip-ups to starting a business is the concept of passion itself. Deeply ingrained in our DNA is the want to do things we love. To tinker. To create. To solve problems. To help others. To build. But what if your passion doesn&rsquo;t have big potential to rake in a lot of income? Should you still follow your heart and build a business around it? Or, should you abandon your passion and look for entrepreneurial opportunities with bigger income potential?</p> <p>Of course, it depends on what your overall income needs are and your monetary goals for the future. Financial planners advise us to have enough savings for six months, a retirement account, and funds available for health care, disability care and medical emergencies. This, in addition to whatever income you need to cover everyday living, like food and a mortgage. It also depends on how you imagine your working life in the future. With a few key questions, you can start making a plan.</p> <p><b>Have you considered all the ways to profit from your passion?</b></p> <p>There are more than one or two ways to profit from your business idea. You just have to find them. Consider all the revenue streams you can manifest. For instance, can you teach a class or hold online seminars as part of your business? Perhaps you can add products or services to your original idea. By following your heart, you&rsquo;ll look at all the ways you can generate money from your idea and help make the dilemma of love vs. money a non-issue.</p> <p><b>Does the business have a legitimate chance of success? </b></p> <p>Ultimately, any business idea can seem like a good one; especially when you&rsquo;re passionate about it. But reality dictates that we do look closely at the validity of our ideas. This is one moment where your head and heart need to separate and let money step in between. If your business idea really doesn&rsquo;t have a valid chance at success, consider revamping your plan.</p> <p>Consider:</p> <ol> <li>Who is the market for your product or service? If it is a small niche, is it big enough to sustain consistent sales?</li> <li>Are you offering something people genuinely will be interested in (and will pay for)?</li> <li>Have you done enough research to know who your market it?</li> <li>Can you start your business within your current resources and expect to become profitable within a reasonable timeframe? If your business requires a lot of start-up money, how soon can you expect to be making money to pay yourself back&mdash;and then earn an income?</li> </ol> <p><b>Can you refocus your passion in a more profitable way?</b></p> <p>Perhaps following your heart just isn&rsquo;t going to be profitable enough. Fine. That&rsquo;s OK and it&rsquo;s better to figure it out sooner than later. But that doesn&rsquo;t mean you still can&rsquo;t build a business that allows you to also live your passion.</p> <p>For example, a local tax preparer who is also a ballerina, wants to open a dance studio for underprivileged children. However, after creating several business plans with different scenarios and financial angles, she sees the income potential is not good&mdash;at least, not good enough to support her family of five with a comfortable lifestyle. So she buys a custom screen printing and embroidery business from an accounting client, and begins making custom dance wear to sell to other dance businesses across the country. She uses funds from the screen printing business to finance a small group of ballet students in the evenings. In the end, this entrepreneur found a way to be financially successful, while still following her heart and living out her dream of helping kids through dance.</p> <p>You can follow your heart <i>and</i> the money, too. Have the mindset that <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/marketing/article/20-important-lessons-i-learned-from-my-marketing-mentor-1" target="_blank">failure is not an option</a>, plan early, and be flexible. Entrepreneur icon Steve Jobs said it best, &ldquo;There really is no reason not to follow your heart.&rdquo;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/justine-grey">Justine Grey</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business risk entrepreneurship motivation small business Wed, 28 Dec 2011 23:57:05 +0000 Justine Grey 835750 at http://www.wisebread.com Why Brand Image Is Important to the Tiniest of Businesses http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018257225Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="170" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/why-brand-image-is-important-to-the-tiniest-of-businesses" class="sharethis-link" title="Why Brand Image Is Important to the Tiniest of Businesses" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>A few months ago, a promising independently-run business shut its doors within a couple of years of startup. Though I enjoyed its product offerings, I had a hunch that it would not survive, not because of operational mismanagement or sloppy customer service but lack of a well-defined and relentlessly-communicated personality or brand.Though some happily embrace and <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/marketing/article/how-to-become-a-premier-local-brand-1" target="_blank">effectively use branding to differentiate their businesses</a>, many entrepreneurs are unconvinced of its value. Some rationalize that branding is counterproductive to a small business, especially a tiny one.</p> <p>Skeptics may think that narrowly defining a target audience and its ideal customer <i>limits</i> revenue and growth possibilities. Reluctant owners might wonder if spending time and allocating resources to developing and managing a branded presence <i>detracts</i> from profitability. However, conveying an image that is in sync with a viable brand strategy can not only help even the tiniest of companies but can be a major driver of its success.</p> <p>Branding touches and intersects with all aspects of a business: marketing, operations, sales, and more. Consider how effective integration and consistent portrayal of a brand image can benefit your business:</p> <p><b>Your ideal customers will recognize that they are being wooed. </b></p> <p>The small shop aimed to please a variety of people, primarily those within a ten-mile radius. These seemed to represent an appropriate target audience, homogeneous on a superficial level. But their lifestyles and consuming habits were wildly divergent, increasing the difficulty of winning favor among various segments.</p> <p>Nevertheless, in its seedling form, the brand held promise of reaching this audience with its similarities in demographics despite dissimilarities in consumer behavior. However, the branding concept was minimally developed and focused on product offerings and an occasional special event. Infrequent mentions of the brand message were contained in its website, in-store signage, social-media messaging, and face-to-face conversations.</p> <p>All aspects of the brand image should resonate with your target audience, letting them know how their quality of life could benefit from connecting with your business. Ideal customers should understand and want the emotional connection and tangible benefits that differentiates your company from competitors.</p> <p><b>Your customers will know what to expect from your products and services. </b></p> <p>The types of products and services offered, along with their respective price tags, are influenced by the brand strategy. In the case of the failed small business, the primary message was generally consistent in terms of purchasing; that is, items procured for the business roughly matched brand criteria.</p> <p>The message that needed more clarity, however, was how these disparate items were part of a more cohesive whole from the customer&rsquo;s point of view. Unless they evaluated the business premise and, frankly, stretched their imaginations, most would not see the connections among boutique-style offerings and seemingly basic items and folksy product lines.</p> <p>More intentional messaging with greater frequency could have better portrayed the brand image and helped endear the customer to the business and its unusual assortment of offerings.</p> <p><b>Customers will know who to tell and what to say about your business. </b></p> <p>Customers spread the word about the tiny business, telling others about its presence and encouraging visits. But, other than espousing the convenience of its location, they really didn&rsquo;t know what unique benefits to promote or what points of distinction to emphasize. Initial interest was high, but then traffic seemed to flounder.</p> <p>Given a clear brand message, both newly enchanted and long-time customers will know who to tell about your business and what they should say. They will intuitively insert the salient features and benefits of your products and services in conversations with friends, family members, professional colleagues, etc.</p> <p><b>You will know what to say in social-media and face-to-face conversations.</b></p> <p>The shop owner shared information that was useful but not relevant to the ideal customer. Over time, social-media messages, marketing campaigns, and face-to-face conversations became more and more disassociated from the original brand image. Promotional efforts and conversations began to resemble those of area competitors, further eroding the possibility of brand loyalty.</p> <p>Endless possibilities for engaging audiences, educating customers, promoting key products, and showcasing special events through social media and daily interactions can overwhelm many business owners. But a brand strategy can serve to shape and channel this content so that the image is accurately conveyed and continually reinforced.</p> <p><b>You can charge prices that support business profitability. </b></p> <p>The lack of a narrowly-defined brand image caused price issues for the fledgling business. Pricing strategy seemed inconsistent as some items were bargains while others were marked up considerably. Worse, while some customers understood the benefits of premium products and unquestioningly paid store prices, many were confused about their value and were resistant to pricing.</p> <p>Owners of the tiniest companies find that a properly expressed brand can not only reach target audiences, set expectations, and streamline business decision-making, but also help the business command desired pricing. Ideal customers understand, appreciate, and are willing to pay for unique expertise, specialized services, distinctive products, and one-of-a-kind experiences.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/julie-rains">Julie Rains</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center brand brandning communication image marketing small business Wed, 28 Dec 2011 22:18:56 +0000 Julie Rains 835744 at http://www.wisebread.com 5 Futuristic Business Opportunities http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-futuristic-business-opportunities <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-futuristic-business-opportunities" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/5-futuristic-business-opportunities</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/5-futuristic-business-opportunities" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018513238Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="190" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/5-futuristic-business-opportunities" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Futuristic Business Opportunities" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Keeping up with trends is crucial for any business that wants to succeed in today&rsquo;s rapidly changing world. In fact, there are <a href="http://trendwatching.com/" target="_blank">firms that make it their business to research trends</a>, provide insights, and <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/innovation/article/8-great-business-ideas-you-can-start-today-1" target="_blank">suggest business opportunities</a>. Based on their prognostications, here are five hot opportunities for 2012.</p> <p><b>1. DIY Health</b></p> <p>According to <a href="http://mobihealthnews.com/" target="_blank">MobiHealthNews</a>, by the middle of next year there will be 13,000 mobile apps devoted to preventing health problems and monitoring or improving health. <a href="http://www.technavio.com/" target="_blank">Technavio</a> predicts the market will reach $4.1 billion by 2014.</p> <p>I recently downloaded a free app by Philips called <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vital-signs-camera-philips/" target="_blank">Vital Signs Camera</a>. Using my iPad&rsquo;s built-in camera, the app measures my heart rate and breathing by just watching small changes in the color of my face and chest movements. I showed it to my cardiologist&mdash;the department head at one of the best known hospitals on the West Coast&mdash;and even he was amazed.</p> <p>How does a free app help Philips? Bet you didn&rsquo;t know they sell medical electronics. Now you do.</p> <p><b>2. Cashless Shopping</b></p> <p>You probably already know that you can use your iPhone to pay for that <i>venti</i> <i>latte</i> at Starbucks or buy a great new accessory at the Apple store, but that&rsquo;s just the beginning of cashless shopping. In 2012 Google and MasterCard will roll out not just a new way to pay, but a new way for businesses to offer deals, track purchases, and provide rewards.</p> <p><a href="http://www.google.com/wallet/" target="_blank">Google Wallet</a> went live in October for customers with Android phones. The system is based on MasterCard&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.mastercard.us/paypass.html%23/home/" target="_blank">PayPass</a> and Tap &amp; Go technologies that allow you to simply tap a special terminal to pay. It&rsquo;s only available from a few merchants so far, but it&rsquo;s clearly the way to pay in the future.</p> <p>In a previous incarnation, my wife (also an <a href="http://www.openforum.com/search/text/?searchstring=lister" target="_blank">OPENforum contributor</a>) and I ran a &ldquo;flightseeing&rdquo; business. We would have paid just about anything to have a simple way to charge someone&rsquo;s credit card while we were standing on the tarmac at an airport. We sold the business six years ago, but if we still had it today, we&rsquo;d definitely be using a <a href="https://squareup.com/" target="_blank">Square</a>&mdash;a simple little (square) device that plugs into an Apple or Android phone. With it you can swipe anyone&rsquo;s card, verify their credit, charge them, and pay one simple rate (2.75 percent). That&rsquo;s a bit higher than some traditional merchant accounts, but if convenience is what you&rsquo;re after, it&rsquo;s well worth it.</p> <p><b>3. See Do</b></p> <p>Ubiquitous smart phones are opening entirely new business opportunities. As a nerd, one that fascinates me revolves around <a href="http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/" target="_blank">Google Goggles</a>.</p> <p>Goggles lets me take a picture of something (a book cover, a landmark, a logo, an artwork, etc.) and Google will search for information about it. Google Goggles will even translate text, such as, say Chinese road signs.</p> <p>Yesterday my wife and I visited the San Diego Museum of Art. Google&rsquo;s app and all the Internet's information resources made for a very rich experience.</p> <p>Afterwards we went to the annual <a href="http://sosorgan.com/" target="_blank">Spreckels Organ</a> Christmas concert and used <a href="http://www.shazam.com/" target="_blank">Shazam</a> music recognition software to find details on the composer of one of the compositions, and ordered a CD so we could hear more of his music.</p> <p>Other examples of &ldquo;See Do&rdquo; abound. Ralph Lauren is using scannable <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code" target="_blank">QR codes</a>, such as the one that accompanies this article, to give away US Open tennis tickets and help customers buy products from their website. John Fluevog, a Canadian designer of handmade shoes, molds a QR code into the sole of his clogs that points to a video showing how they are made. The possibilities are endless.</p> <p><b>4. Trading In</b></p> <p>Green is good, no news there. But some companies are not only encouraging customers to return old products, they&rsquo;re using them to do create something new.</p> <p><a href="http://www.patagonia.com/us/common-threads/" target="_blank">Patagonia</a> has taken back 45 tons of old clothes and turned them into 34 tons of new clothes, for example. Nike has recycled 25 million worn out shoes by grinding them up and turning them into material to surface playgrounds. <a href="http://target.nextworth.com/" target="_blank">Target</a>, <a href="http://www.officedepot.com/a/promo/pages/0328_tradeintradeup/%20;jsessionid=0000F3h4lkaq9XJ8BPQk-iNx7zp:13ddq0ud1" target="_blank">Office Depot</a>, <a href="http://walmart.gazelle.com/" target="_blank">Walmart</a>, <a href="http://radioshack.cexchange.com/online/home/index.rails" target="_blank">RadioShack</a> and <a href="http://www.bestbuy.co.uk/trade-in.aspx" target="_blank">Best Buy</a> have jumped on the trade-in wagon too.</p> <p>A business opportunity worth pondering, especially in this economic environment, is how to encourage your customers to consider the trade or resale value of your products when they make a purchase decision. We just sold a two-year old iPhone that cost us $200 for $150. And we sold our almost four year old iMacs that cost us about $1500 for $800.</p> <p>Your customers want the latest and greatest, they want to be savvy and responsible, and they want creative ways to save money. Think about ways to help them return their old products, learn more about what you have, and do more with less.</p> <p><b>5. Simple Sourcing</b></p> <p>Crowd sourcing allows people to be part of something big&mdash;think Wikipedia&mdash;and the idea offers oodles of business opportunities. Think of it this way: people will work for you for free if you make it easy for them.</p> <p>People in Boston are using an Android app called <a href="http://www.newurbanmechanics.org/bump/" target="_blank">Street Bump</a> that uses smart phone sensors to report potholes.</p> <p>Make it easy for your customers and they&rsquo;ll tell you what they like (and dislike) about your products. Photographers will give you images free through <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/" target="_blank">Creative Commons licensing</a> or almost free through <a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/" target="_blank">iStockPhoto</a>. Musicians will create <a href="http://creativecommons.org/music-communities" target="_blank">tracks and whole songs</a> you can license for free. The opportunities are endless.</p> <p><b>Just Do It</b></p> <p>No, this isn&rsquo;t another business opportunity, <i>per se</i>. It&rsquo;s my way of encouraging you use these five ideas to shape your vision of what your company can do. Use them to develop new products or services or even whole new businesses.</p> <p>I&rsquo;d love to start a dialogue in the comments section about other opportunities you see, or obstacles you feel will make it hard to use these ideas. In other words, let&rsquo;s put Simple Sourcing to the test.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tom-harnish">Tom Harnish</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business opportunities goggles green business recycling simple sourcing small business trends Mon, 26 Dec 2011 23:48:16 +0000 Tom Harnish 835749 at http://www.wisebread.com Start 2012 Off Right With 5 Tax-Wise To-Dos http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/start-2012-off-right-with-5-tax-wise-to-dos <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/start-2012-off-right-with-5-tax-wise-to-dos" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/start-2012-off-right-with-5-tax-wise-to-dos</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/start-2012-off-right-with-5-tax-wise-to-dos" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/tax_wise_to_dos.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="157" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/start-2012-off-right-with-5-tax-wise-to-dos" class="sharethis-link" title="Start 2012 Off Right With 5 Tax-Wise To-Dos" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>As the new year is about to begin, make it your <a target="_blank" href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/18-year-end-financial-must-dos">resolution to start the year off right</a> from a tax perspective. This includes doing the following:</p> <p><b>1. Read Your Odometer.</b></p> <p>If you use your personal car, truck, or van for business, be sure to jot down your odometer reading on January 1. This will help you track your business mileage throughout the year, so you can claim a deduction for this driving. You&rsquo;ll also need to keep a record of all your business driving; without this record, your deduction may be disallowed.</p> <p><b>2. Decide Whether to Become an S Corporation.</b></p> <p>If your business is already incorporated, you generally have until March 15, 2012, to elect to be taxed as an S corporation. This means the owners, rather than the corporation, pay tax on the business&rsquo; profits. Electing by this date lets you be treated as an S corporation for the entire year. The election is made by filing <a target="_blank" href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2553.pdf">IRS Form 2553</a>.</p> <p>If you incorporate a business in 2012, you have two months and 15 days from the start of the corporation to make the election. For example, if you incorporate on January 7, 2012, you have until March 21, 2012, to file the election form with the IRS.</p> <p>Talk with your tax advisor about whether an S election makes sense for your company.</p> <p><b>3. Determine Contributions to Your FSA.</b></p> <p>If your company has a flexible spending arrangement (FSA), you usually have to decide how much to contribute for the new year before the year begins. For 2012, it is up to the company to set limits on how much an employee can contribute from salary to the FSA. (Starting in 2013, the tax law sets the limit at $2,500 per year.)</p> <p>If your company does not yet have an FSA, discuss with your tax advisor the feasibility of adding one now. Even if you start mid-year, you and your staff can benefit from it.</p> <p><b>4. Decide on contributions to your 401(k).</b></p> <p>If your company has a 401(k) plan, just like the FSA, you usually have to decide how much to contribute for the new year before the new year begins. The elective deferral limit for contributions from an employee&rsquo;s salary is higher in 2012 than it was in 2011 ($17,000 in 2012 versus $16,500 in 2011). Those who are at least 50 years old by the end of 2012 can add another $5,500 to the account. Contributions, however, cannot exceed wages.</p> <p>If your company does not have such a plan, you might want to start one. You can use a 401(k) plan even if you are the only one who works for the business. A solo 401(k) can enable you to maximize your annual retirement plan contributions for yourself because you can use the maximum employer contribution permitted in addition to the employee elective deferrals. These contributions are allowed whether you are an employee of your corporation or you are a self-employed person.</p> <p><b>5. Decide Whether to Use an HSA for 2012.</b></p> <p>If you do not yet have health insurance in place for your company, you might want to use a high-deductible health plan combined with a savings account called a Health Savings Account (HSA). This can be an affordable way to provide health coverage.</p> <p>You can decide whether you, your employees, or a combination will pay the health insurance premiums and/or make the HSA contributions. If you pay the premiums, you may even qualify for the smaller employer health insurance credit of up to 35 percent of these premiums!</p> <p><b>Bottom Line</b></p> <p>Hopefully 2012 will be a very good year from a revenue perspective. This is all the more reason to get your tax ducks in a row so you can minimize the portion of your profits that you&rsquo;ll have to share with Uncle Sam.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/barbara-weltman">Barbara Weltman</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center 401(k) FSA HSA small business tax deductions taxes year end taxes Mon, 26 Dec 2011 22:04:44 +0000 Barbara Weltman 835743 at http://www.wisebread.com 3 Steps to Building More Buzz About Your Business http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-steps-to-building-more-buzz-about-your-business <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-steps-to-generating-more-buzz-about-your-business" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/3-steps-to-generating-more-buzz-about-your-bus...</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/3-steps-to-building-more-buzz-about-your-business" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018392180Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/3-steps-to-building-more-buzz-about-your-business" class="sharethis-link" title="3 Steps to Building More Buzz About Your Business" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>You can't control whether or not people talk about your business.</p> <p>Or can you?</p> <p>Do some businesses simply get lucky and enjoy an abundance of word-of-mouth buzz? Or do they make decisions and take actions that generate buzz?</p> <p>I believe that you can actually control how much buzz your business generates by addressing a few simple&mdash;but crucial&mdash;issues. In fact, there are three primary &quot;buzz problems&quot; that every business needs to address.</p> <p><b>1. A buzz-worthy business must know what it does.</b></p> <p>It is surprisingly common for businesses to not have one clear goal and approach. Here's how it often happens: business owners have one good idea (the thing that will make them money), but then they have a few decent ideas as well (things they like, but that won't really fly off the shelves).</p> <p>Because business owners believe in their ideas, they end up running with all of them. They justify this decision by telling themselves that they are now offering a range of products for different consumers and that they are supplying additional features and creating added benefit and value for the customer.</p> <p>The problem is that adding options usually confuses potential customers rather than exciting them. It's not just about product features, however. It's about losing the core idea behind your business. With so many options, it becomes difficult to be known for any one thing. And if your business isn't known for something, then people won't talk about your business.</p> <p>Journalists call this &quot;burying the lead.&quot; The lead is the number one thing that the writer wants the reader to get out of the story. If you don't read anything past the first line or two, you should know the most important part of the story. And if you don&rsquo;t? The journalist has buried the lead deeper in the story.</p> <p>Do customers quickly grasp the most important part of your story? Or do they see multiple options? There can only be one lead. Don't bury the thing that makes you noteworthy&mdash;your lead story&mdash; just because you don't want to leave your second-best idea on the sidelines.</p> <p><b>2. A buzz-worthy business must have an interesting business model or approach.</b></p> <p>If you want to generate more buzz for your business, then you need to <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/easter-eggs-arent-only-for-easter" target="_blank">do business in an interesting way</a>. This isn't about finding an interesting business idea or choosing a &quot;sexy&quot; industry to do business in; it's about making your business unique. In other words, it's about making your business noteworthy.</p> <p>For example, let's say that you run a local pastry shop. You make birthday cakes, wedding cakes, and so on. There's just one problem... no one is really talking about your pastry shop. Why? Because every other pastry shop in town does the same thing as you.</p> <p>You need to make your business stand out and be worthy of remark. Maybe you eliminate everything except your best-selling carrot cakes. Maybe you deliver your cakes in a cake-shaped van. Maybe you focus solely on baby showers and target all of your cakes towards that market.</p> <p>The point is, baking cakes isn't a new or sexy industry, but you can <i>make</i> it interesting and buzz worthy. People will talk about &quot;the baby shower bakery&quot; or &quot;the carrot cake place&quot; or &quot;that weird cake car,&quot; but just another pastry shop doesn't really stand out on its own.</p> <p><b>3. A buzz-worthy business must create stories.</b></p> <p>In December 1999, the town of Halfway, Oregon renamed itself &ldquo;<a href="http://half.com/" target="_blank">Half.com</a>, Oregon&rdquo;. As you might expect, the name change occurred because of financial backing provided by Half.com ($100,000 and some computers).</p> <p>At the time, Half.com was a budding Internet startup and was looking for a way to generate buzz. The move paid off and Half.com found itself mentioned in the <i>New York Times</i>, <i>WIRED</i>, and dozens of other mainstream media outlets. Less than a year later, eBay bought Half.com for $312.8 million. It's an interesting story, but the story-behind-the-story is even better.</p> <p>At the time, Half.com's VP of Marketing was a man named Mark Hughes. A few years later, Hughes wrote a book called <em>Buzzmarketing</em>. In his book, he outlines six principles that he used at Half.com to generate buzz for the business.</p> <p><b>Six Buttons of Buzz</b></p> <ol> <li>The taboo&mdash;sex, lies, and bathroom humor</li> <li>The unusual</li> <li>The outrageous</li> <li>The hilarious</li> <li>The remarkable</li> <li>The secret&mdash;both revealed and unrevealed</li> </ol> <p>If money is tight and you're looking to generate word-of-mouth buzz about your business, then use these six buttons of buzz to create a story. As long as you have taken the time to address the first two points above&mdash;Don&rsquo;t Bury the Lead and Be Interesting&mdash;then you'll have a business worth talking about once the story hits.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/james-clear">James Clear</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center buzz marketing half.com marketing small business Sat, 24 Dec 2011 00:07:43 +0000 James Clear 835752 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Small Business Money Myths to Reconsider http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/10-small-business-money-myths-to-reconsider <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/10-small-business-money-myths-to-reconsider" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/10-small-business-money-myths-to-reconsider</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/10-small-business-money-myths-to-reconsider" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000008998045Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/10-small-business-money-myths-to-reconsider" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Small Business Money Myths to Reconsider" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>Money is obviously something a <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/money/article/how-your-small-business-can-survive-the-recession-1" target="_blank">small business owner thinks about often</a>. How much money do you have? How much money will it cost? How much money can you make?</p> <p>While money itself may not be your sole aim in building a successful business, money-making is a necessary component of business success. Maybe your motive in business is to help people, or be creative, or change an industry. Or, perhaps, your aim is to make money. It doesn't really matter, because any business, no matter its purpose, must make money in order to sustain itself.</p> <p><b>The Plunging-Profit Pattern</b></p> <p>Unfortunately, what often happens at this point is a pattern that leads to less profit, not more.</p> <p>The pattern starts with some long-held belief about money, and about how making money happens. You pull it out, eyeball it, and decide to try it out again. Or, more likely, you don't even consciously note it; you just allow it to control your decisions.</p> <p>Maybe it's your Granddaddy's voice in your ear, saying that slashing prices is the only way to boost sales. Or maybe it's your old business mentor, giving you his tips on how to cut corner after corner, because that's his version of bootstrapping. Maybe it's your accounting professor, your tax guy, your lawyer, your spouse, your best friend, your own fears.</p> <p>Whatever old hat it is you're waving around, it doesn't fit on your new business head. It doesn't work, and your profits plunge.</p> <p><b>The Problem with Money Myths</b></p> <p>Money myths aren't always incorrect. That's the trick, and that's why you keep believing them. Sometimes they do work, so their power over you remains. In fact, money myths <i>are</i> accurate in certain situations, but are not universally true. Applying a limited or faulty money belief as if it is universal or flawless is how small businesses wind up in trouble.</p> <p><b>Ten Common Money Myths</b></p> <p>Do any of these statements sound familiar? Have you heard yourself saying them or heard something similar echoing through your brain?</p> <p>Myth #1: &quot;Lowering my overhead (spending less) is the only/best way to increase my profits.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #2: &quot;Debt is the devil.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #3: &quot;Payroll is my biggest expense.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #4: &quot;I can't afford to __________ .&quot;</p> <p>Myth #5: &quot;I have to offer the lowest prices to beat my competitors.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #6: &quot;Lack of money is my biggest business problem.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #7: &quot;Dumping money into XYZ area of my business would solve my problems.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #8: &quot;I'm doing the best I can with the money I have.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #9: &quot;Cutting jobs/cutting costs/cutting corners is my only option.&quot;</p> <p>Myth #10: &quot;Lack of profit is justifiable because it's a down economy.&quot;</p> <p><b>Busting the Money Myths</b></p> <p>Your job is to see the myths for what they are and are not. They are not universally true, unerringly accurate statements. They are limited. All you have to do is figure out their limitations. In other words, when should you keep the faith, and when should you stop believing?</p> <p>Use these myth-busting questions to figure out if your money belief works for your current situation.</p> <ul> <li>Why do I think this is true?</li> <li>Where did I learn this?</li> <li>What policies do successful businesses have about this money issue?</li> <li>Is this the only option?</li> <li>Is this the best option?</li> <li>What are the alternatives? (There are always alternatives.)</li> <li>What's the opposite?</li> <li>What's the long-term outcome of applying this option?</li> <li>If this were the only thing people would know about my business, would I do it?</li> <li>What possible positive effects could this have?</li> <li>What possible negative effects could this have?</li> <li>What effect am I looking for?</li> </ul> <p>Like it or not, part of your job is dealing with the money and being smart about the money. If the nuts and bolts of money-making don't appeal to you, you'll be tempted to divert to the easiest plan. The easiest plan will be the method that's most comfortable, and that's where the danger lies. Pay attention to your own money beliefs and make sure they're accurate for your actual situation before you act.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/annie-mueller">Annie Mueller</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center business investment cash cost cutting finance money money myths small business Fri, 23 Dec 2011 22:42:09 +0000 Annie Mueller 835747 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Network Sincerely and Effectively http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/how-to-network-sincerely-and-effectively <div class="field field-type-link field-field-url"> <div class="field-label">Link:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="http://www.openforum.com/articles/how-to-network-sincerely-and-effectively" target="_blank">http://www.openforum.com/articles/how-to-network-sincerely-and-effectively</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/small-business/how-to-network-sincerely-and-effectively" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000018040616Small.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/small-business/how-to-network-sincerely-and-effectively" class="sharethis-link" title="How to Network Sincerely and Effectively" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><p>In almost any business environment you will hear from the people on top about the importance of networking. But what exactly is networking? Is networking establishing <a href="http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/lifestyle/article/10-tips-for-building-a-great-reputation-from-scratch-scott-allen" target="_blank">deep, meaningful social connections</a>? Or can any social situation wherein you simply engage with another person in the most superficial of manners be considered &ldquo;networking?&rdquo;</p> <p>In its simplest definition, the latter is <i>technically</i> correct. Even if that connection is an exceedingly tenuous one, the bare goal of networking is to establish a connection between yourself and another person. This is done quickly and easily: &ldquo;Hello, blah blah blah me me me, vague chitchat,&rdquo; and bam! Networking done, take the rest of the week off.</p> <p>But networking superficially comes at a price, because you&rsquo;ve established a poor connection. And these connections can easily &ldquo;snap.&rdquo; And having a connection snap can have a more negative impact than never having established a connection in the first place.</p> <p>Why?</p> <p>Because, people recognize fakeness and insincerity. They know when you have &ldquo;networked&rdquo; them in a superficial, self interested manner. They&rsquo;re just too polite to say anything about it to your face.</p> <p>So how do you network sincerely &ndash; and therefore effectively? By adhering to a few simple principles.</p> <p><b>Actually Listen to People</b></p> <p>This is rule number one to establishing a connection. Listen and retain information.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s say you&rsquo;ve met Bob. Bob is a potential associate. You want to network with Bob. It starts simply. Ask him a question then actually listen to his response. Maybe even ask a follow-up question, you little Cronkite. But most importantly, retain the information you&rsquo;ve learned from listening. As much as you can. Yes, always.</p> <p><b>Remember the Details!</b></p> <p>Remembering is easier than you think it is. We have good memories, but we&rsquo;re just lazy. If you will remember long ago, all the way back in those simpler times we call eight years ago before cell phone address books, people had to remember lots of things, like hundreds of phone numbers at once. What big brains we had.</p> <p>So what&rsquo;s so hard about remembering some concrete details about old Bob like you used to be able to remember people&rsquo;s phone numbers? Write the details down that night if you have to. Study them later. Listen, but don&rsquo;t just listen: learn something about your new acquaintances. Learn their interests.</p> <p>Maybe even&hellip;</p> <p><b>Get &lsquo;Em Something Nice or Better: Something Useful</b></p> <p>I had a friend who once recommended buying people magazine subscriptions because it was a constant reminder to that person that you had given them a gift. I recommend something a little less transparently networky: if you&rsquo;ve started to establish a connection with someone, buy them a small gift they will actually use, and use often.</p> <p>Maybe you listened to Bob talk about <i>pinot noirs</i> and exciting wines coming out of Washington State (and you remembered it!). And maybe Christmas is rolling around and buying a Washington State <i>Pinot</i> for Bob sounds like a great idea. Not bad, and probably better than another holiday fruitcake. But after Bob guzzles that bottle he&rsquo;ll forget about it. Why not look to buy something related to his hobby that he&rsquo;ll use many times: a wine aerator, a decanter, even a nice corkscrew? Something he&rsquo;ll look at and remember you.</p> <p>But keep in mind&hellip;</p> <p><b>Networking Isn&rsquo;t &lsquo;Quid Pro Quo&rsquo;</b></p> <p>File this under &ldquo;being a good person.&rdquo; While you&rsquo;re networking sincerely, you do, of course, hope that you&rsquo;ll get something positive from the relationship. But you can&rsquo;t expect it and get huffy when it&rsquo;s not reciprocated. Networking sincerely comes from a place of altruism. You listen, you retain information about your fellow human being, you help out. It&rsquo;s all gravy if the person you&rsquo;re networking with <i>wants</i> to help you back. If Bob doesn&rsquo;t want to help you though, so be it. Bob&rsquo;s loss there.</p> <p>But you shouldn&rsquo;t be completely passive. Networking sincerely also requires that you be willing to&hellip;</p> <p><b>Ask For an Opinion</b></p> <p>People like feeling warm and fuzzy. And nothing turns on the warm fuzzies like feeling needed. And not in a way that feels like work. People like to feel challenged and useful. Asking for opinions signals to a person that you value their perspective. That they are an equal. And after Bob has shared his advice, consider following it. He&rsquo;s smarter than he looks.</p> <p>&ldquo;So, Bob, what&rsquo;s your favorite Washington <i>Pinot</i>?&rdquo;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/jacob-harper">Jacob Harper</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Small Business Resource Center marketing networking sales small business Thu, 22 Dec 2011 22:58:01 +0000 Jacob Harper 835748 at http://www.wisebread.com