Thursday, October 31, 2013

Advertise with BBB

Promote your business on a billboard, bus or bulletin advertisement at a third of the cost.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Follow these tips from the STOP.THINK.CONNECT campaign to stay safe online in both your business and personal lives.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is Social Media Required For Small Business?

Social Media benefits and avenues
While there are obvious arguments and exceptions, getting down to the knitty gritty

Yes, Social Media is required.

Whether you are a local area carpenter or a small pizza franchise, utilizing the various aspects of social media to reach your overall business goals is a great option. However, you don’t need to be a computer wiz or technology junkie to reap the benefits.

“But I don’t understand all of the fuss about these silly websites!”

This is the first step. Once you begin to understand and get a grasp on the basics of social media, the rest follows suit. The fundamental understanding of the major social media platforms may come quickly to some, but with a minimal time commitment, even the most stubborn of luddites can be tweeting and posting status updates with ease.

Still not convinced it is worth the effort? Here is a quick list of the many benefits provided:

  • Business Exposure
  • Customer Insights
  • Reduced Marketing Expenses
  • Lead Generations
  • Extremely Targeted
  • Competitve Advantage
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Strengthen Loyalty
  • Rise in Search Rankings
  • Increased Website Traffic

"OK, You have convinced me... bring on the hordes of new customers!"

In today’s age we can compare having social media to needing a website ten years ago, and needing your business in the phone book years before that. So much so that it has almost become an expectation of every business, and just like its predecessors it is not enough to just sign up and wait.

An easy way to look at using social media is to compare it to going on a diet. Sure many people every year get excited and promise:

 “Alright from here on out, I am only going to eat healthy and get in the best shape I can”. 

But for many, two days later they can be seen eating slices of pizza and drinking soda.

Diet commitment
Social media is a commitment. Just like you wouldn't expect to lose 20 pounds over night on a diet, neither should you expect social media to be the be all end all of your marketing. The more consistency and effort you put into your social media practices the greater the benefits.

Like many things in life, it is a marathon not a sprint.

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs that will expand on many of the most pressing questions small business owners have. Examples: How to Optimize A Facebook Page, Defining a Social Media Strategy and more.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Optimizing your Image and Brand

Every time you step out of the house, you are representing yourself and your brand in everything you do. While your image might change with the new trends and styles, your core brand and ideologies should be consistent across all mediums. Your brand represents your values, it is your legacy, it is your fingerprint.

Here are a few helpful thoughts:

- Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Never under estimate the power of good hygiene.
-Strive for your best possible physical condition.
-Dress tastefully and appropriate every day. You never know who you may encounter next to you at the gas pump.
-Promptness communicates respect and dependability.
-Be present. Don't fidget, gaze off or be preoccupied with your mobile device.
-Make eye contact and maintain relaxed, positive facial expressions.
-Body language needs to communicate approachability, alertness and respect.
-Listen more than speak. Never interrupt.
-Don't simply use good manners, have them.
-Social Media: Be other-centered offering rich content and compelling status updates.
-Keep appointments. Keep your word.
-Return correspondence promptly via the same medium (texts with texts, calls with calls, etc.) and with correct grammar.

Keeping these simple thoughts in mind when you go about your daily business will allow you to present and consistent and quality image.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Basic Scam Avoidance Practices

Many schemes and scams are easily detected and often pose no real threat to you or your family, but even though you might catch obvious and sometimes embarrassing attempts to defraud you, there are still many more that take even the most cautious people by surprise.

Following these few tips can give you an edge on the attempts to defraud you or your family.

-Get all promises and claims in writing. Ask for proof of claims.

-Require references and check them. Be aware that people may falsely give good references on a company.

-Try to get many references, not just one or two. When checking references, ask detailed questions about business procedures and performance that only a person with real experience in that industry could answer.

-Before signing any document, read it carefully. Sometimes items such as checks and purchase orders contain legal agreements that you might not realize you are authorizing. Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces.

-Be sure you understand a written business agreement completely, and if possible, get a lawyer’s help. If you can’t explain that agreement to someone else, don’t sign it. Keep asking questions until you get answers that satisfy you.

-Screen all of your mail; it is full of valuable items, such as checks and private financial information.

-Change pass-codes for telephone, voice mail, and other billable communications systems frequently. Use complex passwords at least six characters long or longer. Passwords should never consist of character combinations that can be guessed easily, such as phone numbers, birthdays, or names.

-Review all financial statements and bills, to make sure there are no unauthorized amounts on your accounts. Keep these sensitive documents in a secure place. Destroy or shred any such items that you do not want to store. 

How prepared are you?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Good Business Practices – Tips for Securing Customer Loyalty

As the saying goes in the world of marketing: “It’s more expensive to bring in new customers than it is to retain them!” Here are some tips for keeping your customers coming back for more:

Show Your Manners. Customers appreciate companies that thank them for their business, and it always helps to be courteous when you do. A personal note or small gift will also do wonders for maintain customer loyalty.

Listen! Businesses may think they listen to what their customers want, but quite often they don’t. How many times have you tried selling something because it’s a larger sale instead of what they actually need? In those instances, guess what? The customer will take their business elsewhere- to your competitor down the street.

Stay in Touch. Make it a point to contact your customers regularly by offering coupons, discounts, and other notifications (your least costly form of communication is by email). Remember, however, not to inundate your customers’ inbox's because the opposite of what you want will happen- they’ll eventually stop reading altogether everything you send them.

Train Your Staff About the Importance of Customer Service. Empower your employees with the ability to make decisions regarding customer service, particularly when management is not around. Set guidelines for what staff can and cannot do that will “wow” the customer- but also won’t break the bank.

Always Add Value. Offer extras your competitor isn't, be it additional training time, a free estimate, a discount on another purchase or a promotional item. What customer wouldn't want to come back if freebies are offered!

Following these few practices should create great relationships between you and your customers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Good Business Practices- Know How to Avoid Scams: Dos and Don'ts

Unfortunately being a small business owner carries more risk than just making ends meet and satisfying customers. They are often the targets and victims of many different types of scams, looking to take advantage of those who are spread thin in their duties to the business.

Here are some general Dos and Don’ts for small business owners to take a look at and consider before making decisions.

-Do not pay for goods or services that you did not order. If fraudulent charges appear on blank statements, credit card bills, or other bills, send a letter disputing the false charges right away. Notify the BBB and appropriate law enforcement agencies, such as your state’s Attorney General and the FTC, about the problem.

-Do not respond to unsolicited email business offers from strangers, especially messages from persons in foreign countries that request the use of your bank account (the classic “Nigerian letter” scam, which may also seem to come from other troubled countries).

-Do not confirm or provide private financial information by email. Some email frauds look like a message from your own Internet service provider, bank, credit card company, or other vendor, requesting email confirmation of financial data. If you are concerned, print out the email and send it with a written inquiry to your vendor’s fraud prevention department.

-Do protect your company’s financial data and any data about your customers that could be used for identity fraud purposes. You may wish to hire privacy and security consultants to review your company’s operations and advise you.

-Do investigate an unfamiliar business before you buy. Find out its street address, phone number, whether it is licensed if required, names of key contacts, and its business reputation. Check on it with the Attorney General of your state, your local Department of Consumer Affairs, or the Better Business Bureau.

TIP: When in doubt, check it out with the BBB, the FTC, your state’s Attorney General, or your local Department of Consumer Affairs.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Good Business Practices – Finding Professionals

When choosing professionals to help you, it is a good idea to interview several candidates and ask questions about their qualifications, fees, and references before deciding to work with one.


Most people check the yellow pages when seeking a lawyer, or ask a relative or friend to recommend someone. This may not be the best way to locate a skilled lawyer.

Look for someone who has experience advising businesses of similar size, ideally in your industry. Many bar associations have excellent referral services that can help you find a qualified lawyer, usually for a small.


It’s important to find a good accountant for your business. Even if you maintain all your business records yourself, at some point, you will probably need to consult a professional about tax laws, loan applications, or other matters that affect your business finances.

Look for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). You can get referrals from business friends. You can also locate such individuals through national or local CPA associations, which you can find through the Internet or phone book.


Smart business owners understand that they have to obtain a license to operate when the law requires it. Since you are putting a lot of money and effort into your business, you don’t want to endanger it by failing to get something as simple as a license.

How do you learn about licensing? Consult a business adviser or the local association for your industry. You are likely to find information through the following government agencies:

City: Department of Consumers Affairs, Mayor’s Office, Economic Development or Business Development office

County: County Clerk or County Executive

State: Department of State, usually located in your state’s capital

Federal: Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and other federal agencies

How have you gone through the process of hiring professionals in the past?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Good Business Practices – Respect Your Customers

Trust is the essential element for business success. When customers trust you they will keep doing business with you, and they will send other customers to you.

If you are the only person handling your own business, you have complete control over the relationship with the consumer. When you hire others, you will need to train your employees to respond to customers in the way that you want.

Unhappy customers may file a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB would then work with your company to resolve the complaint. More often, unhappy customers will tell other people how badly your business treated them. Over time, your company’s reputation could suffer. Don’t let this happen. You can prevent most customer problems.

TIP: Develop a formal complaint-handling procedure and train your employees to use it.

It’s a good idea to develop a consistent complaint-handling program, including a written policy. Be sure your plan includes responses that comply with the law.

The key to good customer service is an honest and friendly attitude towards the customer. Pay attention to workplace stresses (conditions such as temperature, light, noise, access to adequate information, etc.) that affect your employees; do your best to make it easier for them to serve your customers politely.

TIP: Show that you’re willing to help solve the customer’s problem, even if you don’t agree with what the customer says.

These practices can help you and your employees have a positive attitude with benefits for you bottom line.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Good Business Practices – Financing Alternatives to Traditional Loans

Tip: Alternatives to loans might make good business sense – or they might cost more. Check terms carefully.

Vendor Credit- Trade credit or vendor credit is used when a business makes a major purchase, to be paid over time on credit from a vendor. Comparison-shop to see whether you might do better by paying for the purchase with some other form of financing. Discuss terms with your vendor, and don’t be afraid to negotiate for a better deal.

Customer Financing- Sometimes a major customer or potential customer for your business may help you by providing special financial assistance. In this case, review the terms offered and make sure the requirements would ne be too limiting for your business in the long run.

Factor Companies- The “factor” purchases your accounts receivable (money owed to you) at a discount for cash. Risks associated with collection may or may not be transferred to the factor. This provides your business with the case flow sooner. If you work with a factor, be sure the company is a reputable one that will not destroy your customer relationships through problem collection tactics. Ask for references, check them, and negotiate terms. Be sure you get the best deal possible, taking into consideration issues such as the amounts payable and the credit history of your accounts.

Leasing Companies- By leasing equipment, you avoid having to pay a large sum all at once for a purchase, and also avoid owning outdated equipment. Review the leasing agreement carefully and check the tax effect, to make sure the deal is not too expensive compared to other types of financing that could give you ownership of the equipment.

How have you thought about financing your business?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Good Business Practices – Your Personal Assets

Your personal assets include your own cash, credit and other valuable property such as real estate (your home) and securities. You should always plan to invest in your business using your own personal assets. Be careful not to rely too heavily on financing your business with expensive forms of debt financing, such as credit cards. This is risky and may affect you negatively when the time comes to seek other financing.

Making a list of your personal assets can take up a good amount of time if done correctly, but the effort put towards the list is well worth it in the end. Not only will this list give you an idea of the worth of both your physical and financial assets but can also assist you when planning for retirement and insurance claims.

Separating your personal assets into two categories can be helpful when creating your lists. Typically the two categories are physical and financial. Below are common examples of the various assets that fit those descriptions.

-Real Estate

-Retirement Accounts
-Life Insurance

After compiling your list you will be prepared to face your future financial decisions with the best information available.

Have you ever prepared a list of assets?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Good Business Practices – Types of Funding and Providers

You may need financing for short or long-term purposes. Most short-term loans mature in a year or less. Short-term loans include lines of credit (the option to borrow modest sums on short notice for a short time), which give you access to working capital (money that helps you run your business when cash flow is low).

The value of the assets purchased and the company’s ability to repay may affect the loan repayment period. Long-term loans are generally repaid between one to seven years, and are usually given for major business purposes, such as the purchase of equipment or inventory.

Even if you have enough money of your own to start your business (personal assets), eventually you will probably need to borrow money (debt financing) or sell an equity interest in your business (equity financing) to make your company grow. These different types of financing may have tax advantages and disadvantages. You may wish to consult a professional tax adviser, such as an accountant, about your options.

Over the next week, we will dive deeper into the differences between using your personal assets, debt financing, equity financing and alternatives to these traditional methods.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Good Business Practices – Your Personal Commitment and Background

Here are a couple insights into the personal aspects of getting ready to get financing.

-If you are asking an investor or bank to risk money on your business, you will need to show that you (and your partners, if any) have a deep commitment to your business. Typically you will be asked to show a personal investment of about 25% of the total amount needed for a particular loan purpose.

-For small businesses, especially new ones, the collateral may need to be personal assets of some kind, such as a home, other valuable property or a co-signature. It is important that you and your family members understand the risk and benefits of offering up personal property as collateral.

-Talk with your family members about the effort necessary to make your business a success and be sure that you can count on them to help you along the way. Running a small business can be exhausting, require long hours, and result in a lower standard of living for the owner in the growth years, lack of family support could seriously hurt a start-up business.

Have you ever been affected by financing in the past?