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30 Do’s And 20 Don’ts In Starting A Small Business

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Monday, August 31, 2009

A Live Virtual Receptionist Is A Smart Solution Forn Small Business

For many companies who need quality administrative services, but cannot afford to find, train, and employ a full-time receptionist, live virtual receptionists are an invaluable resource. A live virtual receptionist handles incoming phone calls, either connecting them to you or taking and forwarding appropriate messages. Live virtual receptionists also sort and prioritize email, set appointments, and provide many other services you would expect from a front-desk receptionist at a fraction of the cost. If you run a business from home, or simply have limited office space and limited resources, a live virtual receptionist may be the flexible solution you are looking for.

Front Desk offers live virtual receptionist services from trained live virtual receptionists who are educated about your company and want to provide you with the quality services you are looking for. Your calls, emails and other correspondence will be handled by their live virtual receptionists with utmost professionalism and courtesy. Their live virtual receptionists give your clients and customers a pleasant business experience with a real person instead of an automated system. Unless you specify otherwise, callers will never know they are dealing with a live virtual receptionist in place of someone at the front desk of your business. With their live virtual receptionists, your clients will be happy they called and eager to continue doing business.

Live virtual receptionists are gaining in popularity and can be a valuable money saver for start-up businesses or companies looking to streamline costs. With live virtual receptionist service, you pay for the services you need and use and do not have to worry about managing personnel. By using a live virtual receptionist, you will find that you have more time to deal with important business issues and can focus on your company’s needs. Live virtual receptionists are a stress free way to get the exceptional administrative service you need.

For more information go to Live Virtual Receptionists .... or Call Front Desk at (212) 549-1801.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Small Business Inventory Control and Asset Tracking Resource

Inventory control & asset tracking can be among the most laborious and frustrating tasks you have as a small business owner. However ..... here's a software package designed to make all that stress disappear .... and enhance the efficiency of your small business tracking needs.

RVB Systems Group has developed a low-cost easy-to-use inventory and fixed asset tracking application named Track'Em. The STANDARD version ($895) comes with the portable and rugged Unitech HT630 PDT laser barcode scanner. The LITE version ($395) comes with the equally rugged Unitech MS210 USB corded CCD barcode scanner.

Unlike some asset / inventory tracking applications, Track'Em is ready to go right out of the box. It includes an ACCESS 2003 database, dozens of reports and data entry screens. A FREE RUNTIME VERSION of Access 2003 is provided along with Track'Em. Track'Em can be run on a stand-alone PC, or over a network on an unlimited number of workstations. Track'Em Standard comes with a portable barcode scanner that is pre-programmed to easily collect information regarding assets (i.e., non-consumable items with different numbers, like the serial numbers on PC's, documents, tools and equipment) and products / inventory (i.e., consumable items with the same number, like the barcode number on a case of copy paper).

For more information read over this: Barcode Solutions


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Small Business Resource ..... Your Local Library

Here's an easy, simple, and maybe surprising suggestion for a small business resource. I recommend the local library.

Too often we think of the library as a place for books and recreation, but it offers much more than that. Most public libraries have electronic resources available for business patrons - just ask a reference librarian.

For example, in Michigan, where I'm from, the Michigan Electronic Library offers the Business and Company Resource Center, which is accessible online to anyone with a Michigan driver's license (see link below). This database provides industry overviews, company profiles, investment reports, financials, etc. And it's all FREE.

In addition to the public library, I also recommend the local university library, especially if you live near a good business school. Publicly funded university libraries are open to the public; however, not all provide access to their databases. A librarian can advise you. And don't forget about your alma mater! Some alumni associations include online library access privileges as part of alumni membership.

There are also online business libraries that charge a fee for resources.

Lastly, there is an amazing amount of government resources available - for FREE: The Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Patent & Trademark Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission, manufacturing.gov, individual state websites, etc. All available online.

Ask your local librarian about these resources – that’s what the library is for!

Michigan Electronic Library

Monday, August 24, 2009

Resource Guide And Planning Tool For Marketing Your Small Business

Small business owners juggle many tasks at the same time. One of the challenges is staying focused and consistent in their marketing efforts, especially once they have created some business for themselves. Many times their revenues fluctuate like peaks and valleys creating tremendous stress. A new online application has been developed to help small businesses stay consistent and focused in their marketing efforts.

Simple Marketing Pro walks the business owner through identifying their income goals and recording their monthly results so their can make strategic decisions. Next, they select the marketing strategies that they are comfortable performing and that brings them results. Once they select the strategies they will be prompted by email every time they have a task to complete. Simple Marketing Pro makes it easy for them to stay on top of their marketing activities without a lot of effort. The results are the small business owner takes consistent action and that action leads to constant revenues and a pipeline filled with prospects.

For more information go to: Small Business Marketing

By the way, they also offer weekly webinars to demonstrate Simple Marketing Pro.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What Is The Impact Of Health Care Reform On Small Businesses?

As a follow up to a previous post here at Small Business Resources Cafe ... what follows is a synopsis from BusinessWeek of what current proposed health care reform legislation from the House and a Senate committee will mean to both the self-employed and small business owners. It's a pretty good overview.

Read closely ... and be prepared. If you wish to make your feelings known about what it all means specificly to you .... or have any comments whatsoever .... feel free to excercise your rights and contact your representatives to the Senate and House of Representatives. They are supposed to represent your interests ... and you might have to remind them of that.

How do the health care reform proposals stack up for entrepreneurs? After months of discussion, Congress finally released detailed plans that will have broad consequences for small business owners. The House's proposal was released July 14, and the plan from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee on July 15. A third proposal, from the Senate Finance Committee, is forthcoming. Any health reform plan Congress passes will be stitched together from the framework established by these three bills.

Here's a look at how the proposals from the House and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee will affect three categories of entrepreneurs: individuals who work for themselves but have no employees; small employers that are exempt from some of bills' requirements; and larger employers subject to new mandates.

The House Version .......

* For the self-employed:

All individuals would be required to buy health insurance or face a fee. Self-employed workers could buy insurance through a new national health insurance exchange (or smaller state and regional exchanges), including a public plan option. Insurers could not restrict coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Government subsidies would be available on a sliding scale to prevent people from paying more than 11% (less for lower-income workers) of their income on insurance. Individuals who don't buy insurance would face a tax penalty of 2.5% of the difference between their adjusted gross income and the tax filing threshold (about $9,000 for single filers in 2008).

* For small employers:

The House plan requires all employers to provide coverage if they have at least $500,000 in payroll. Companies would have to contribute 72.5% of their workers' premiums (or 65% for family coverage). Those that don't would face a payroll tax, starting at 2% for companies with a payroll of $250,000 and increasing on a sliding scale to 8% for those with more than $400,000. The House plan would offer small employers with low-wage workers a tax credit toward premium costs that would phase out for companies with higher wages and more workers. Some employers could let their workers buy insurance through the exchange.

* For larger employers:

Companies with payroll above $400,000 would have to contribute at least 72.5% to workers' premiums or face the 8% penalty. They would be required to automatically enroll workers in coverage. Tax credits would not be available for companies employing more than 25 people or who have workers with average salaries above $80,000.

For more, see the House Summary

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Version ..........

* For the self-employed:

Individuals are required to buy insurance. Those who don't would face fees of up to $750 per year. Individual insurance, including the public plan, could be purchased through "gateways" similar to the exchanges in the House bill. Insurers would be banned from restricting coverage based on pre-existing conditions or claims history. Subsidies would be available for individuals with incomes within four times the poverty level ($88,000 for a family of four).

* For small employers:

Companies with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from so-called pay or play requirements. Employers with 50 or fewer full-time workers that pay 60% or more of their premiums will get tax credits for up to three years to offset the cost of coverage. Small businesses (as well as self-employed workers) could join in statewide buying pools to reduce premiums.

* For larger employers:

Companies with more than 25 employees that pay for less than 60% of premiums face $750 annual penalties for each full-time worker ($375 for part-time) beyond the first 25.

For more, see the Committee's Summary.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cap and Trade Bad News For Small Businesses

The misguided monster birthed by Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey will not only hurt consumers ... but is really bad news for small businesses throughout the nation too. To her credit ... Democratic Representative Nydia Velazquez of New York and chairwoman of House Small Business Committee recognized this fact .... and expressed her reservations in a letter to Waxman and Markey.

A couple of her points include:

* Small businesses need rebates to ease the higher energy costs that may result from capping carbon dioxide emissions

* Some businesses “will not be able to insulate themselves from such rapid energy price increases and could experience serious economic disruption.”

Another Congresswoman ...Lynn Jenkins of Kansas ..... shared her views on cap and trade and the impact it would have on small businesses in this YouTube video: Cap and Trade .... Bad Idea .

Note that both of these individuals are Democrats. So you can't chide me for quoting partisan Republican politicians sources. Kudos to Reps. Velazquez and Jenkins.

Here's another source. Ben Lieberman, Senior Policy Analyst for Energy and Environment in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

"It is clear that cap-and-trade is very expensive and amounts to nothing more than an energy tax in disguise. After all, when you sweep aside all the complexities of how cap and trade operates--and make no mistake, this is the most convoluted attempt at economic central planning this nation has ever attempted--the bottom line is that cap and trade works by raising the cost of energy high enough so that individuals and businesses are forced to use less of it. Inflicting economic pain is what this is all about. That is how the ever-tightening emissions targets will be met."

The unfortunate circumstance are that barring a shift in the earth's rotation (couldn't resist that one LOL), a sudden enlightenment to the truth of those on the Hill, or a major uprising of concerned American's, we are likely to get it stuck to us pretty bad.

It's just amazing. Today, during the worst economic downturn in living memory, with unemployment approaching double digits and the stock market plumbing new depths seemingly every day, this congress and this administration are about to add a new tax on energy in the name of global warming, a tax that will make it harder for businesses to survive as they have to make deeper cuts and raise prices on their already hurting customer base.

Sounds kind of omnious doesn't it. As if we don't have enough to worry about with the economy in the state it's in. What we don't need is another kick in the gut. Especially delivered by those who are supposed to represent our interests ... not "special" interests. Common sense this ain't.

For those who want to take direct action, contact your congressmen and senators. It might make a difference. Pray that it does. If not .... come 2010 vote them all out. We can definitely do much better. But we need folks who are there for US first.

Like Ricky said to Lucy; "You got some explaining to do"

Monday, August 17, 2009

When Does A Partnership Makes Sense For Your Small Business?

Before attempting to form an alliance, whether it is a partnership or some other form, you need to make certain that you are familiar with the steps. Preparing in advance is like practicing the steps before your first dance. It will help you avoid possible costly mistakes, and perhaps stepping on someone's toes.

You need to answer the following key questions before you take that first dance step:

1. Do you truly need an alliance or do you have the expertise and resources required to succeed on your own?

2. What benefits do you expect from an alliance versus going it alone -- both financial and non-financial?

3. Who are the potential alliance associates?

4. What alternative forms of alliance have been considered and what is the best form for this alliance?

To answer these questions you will need to perform a thorough, objective and honest assessment of your company's business environment, the internal and external challenges it faces, AND its strengths and weaknesses. In other words you need to have a well thought out business plan.

Finally, what I have found over the years is that:

(1) the size of the commitment required to properly support an alliance is typically underestimated and ....

(2) weaknesses in the planning phase will show up later and will become very costly and cumbersome to rectify.

You can learn how to establish and manage solid and successful business alliances in Charles H. Newman’s dynamic business guide BEYOND THE CHICKEN DANCE.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Reform .... What Will Be The Cost To Small Businesses?

Health care reform that will enable small business to afford insurance is essential to economic growth and prosperity in this country. My concern is that even with this reform many small business owners will still not be able to afford health insurance.

For many small businesses .... without the ability to attain even temporary loans while waiting for payment on jobs .... they are struggling to survive let alone purchase health insurance.

Supposedly .... according to proponents of the current health care reform legislation ... under the current proposal, small businesses with payrolls under $250,000 are exempt from the requirement to provide health care insurance. Those small businesses that want to participate will receive two forms of help: a new small business tax credit, and the ability to participate in a pool of small businesses to negotiate for lower rates.

However ..... look at social security, the health care provided to veterans (Walter Reid), and the government's ability to manage Fannie Mae. Do you really think that the government is going to be able to manage socialized health care? Social security was once sold to the american people by saying that participants would only have to pay 1% of their first 1,400 in annual incomes, contributions would be deductible for income tax purposes, retireees would never be taxed on the benefits, and that the money would be put into a trust fund and never used for anything else. Is any of this true today?

Bottom line ... the cost of Health Care reform in it's current form will be substantial. The review by the Congressional Budget Office (a non-partisan auditor/IG type body) ..... even confirms that the Bill on the table will cost more than health care does today .... not good news. Plus, one estimate of job loss is at least 1.6 million jobs.

Dollars AND jobs. Not a cost small businesses want or can accept for a flawed attempt at health care reform. We deserve and should demand much better. Let's hope we get it.

All in all .... very scary stuff. The stuff rationing and health care shortages are made of.

It is smoke and mirrors to think that the government program will live alongside private programs. The government program is subsidized by money stolen from our children and grandchildren. It need not make a profit. Therefore it competes unfairly in the marketplace and uses it's subsidy status to drive profit making enterprises from the market. At the end of the day it's the only option left standing. Anti-competitive and grossly anti-American.

Is it worse to have the government restricting access to health care than the free market? Infinitely. The free market is self-limiting with respect to who gets care. Essentially, if you can pay for care, you can get care, just like every other product or service sold in the free market. As it should be.

The government has promised that you can get care whether or not you can pay (or are willing to pay). Great. I don't need to pay anymore because the nanny state provides anyway. Did the problem just get better or worse?

Additionally, our health care system is overstressed right now, largely due to government interference in pricing structures in the form of payment caps. Add 47 million new patients who now have no restrictions to the health care services they seek, and you've increased the workload of our GPs and nurses 20%. Where are you going to get 20% more GPs and nurses tomorrow? It takes 5 years or more to train them. You have just given us a 5 year shortage ASSUMING that despite downward cost pressures on health care services, thousands more men and women will choose to enter the field. Of course the opposite is true. We've seen people exiting the field as cost caps limited profits.

The economics just don't add up. You can't contain costs, cap profits, and increase the base of suppliers in the face of 47 million new buyers.

Welcome to the world of government bureaucrat rationed medicine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Small Business Resource ..... Tools For Multi-Media Marketing

Every small business needs to reach their target market in the most cost effective manner ... especially in today's economy. One specific advertising method proven to bring significant results is multi-media marketing. Which until now was beyond the financial ability of most small businesses to use effectively.

However, that's no longer true.

PanRight Productions offers inexpensive audio and a/v marketing tools as well as podcast production, to help small businesses with limited budgets get more multimedia exposure on the web as well as radio, for internal training or presentations, for audio newsletters, and targeted promotions of products and services.

PanRight does this using voice overs integrated with strong marketing or training text, and providing a professionally finished pristine package, often as short as one minute in length, for an extremely modest price. It has been called a one-stop shop for professional narration, audio production, editing, engineering, and integration with music and/or images -- saving small businesses and non-profits the expense of hiring a expert in each of these areas.

Sample links have been included with dozens more available that demonstrate various solutions to different client needs:

Inside Scoop

Web Marketing Therapy

RainToday.com is publishing a white paper in which PanRight Productions is included as a company who has successfully navigated the current economy because of the streamlined and state-of-the-art approach to a multitude of marketing and training needs.

Clients include large corporations (Barnes and Noble, McGraw-Hill, Pfizer, DeVry) and emerging authors and small businesses. PanRight has also been asked to be part of two marketing teams to augment the services they currently provide.

For more information go to: Panright Productions


Monday, August 10, 2009

iTeleCenter - The Virtual PBX for the Little Guy

One of the most exciting and innovative new services we have seen in quite some time is iTeleCenter.

iTeleCenter offers all of the features and benefits of a high-end PBX system without any of the traditional hassle or expense. You can continue using your existing analog telephones while enjoying advanced features such as music-on-hold, remote extensions, call forwarding, fax-on-demand, enhanced voicemail and much, much more.

All of iTeleCenter's features can be controlled using your telephone keypad or via an easy to navigate web interface. Best yet, they even offer a free trial.

iTeleCenter boasts some pretty impressive endorsements too ..... from places like Yahoo Finance, Micrsoft Small Business Center, NuBiz, Smart Biz, Small Business Opportunities, and TMCnet.

Join thousands of other small business owners who have quickly, easily & inexpensively transformed the way they do business. See for yourself ... go to the iTeleCenter web site using the below link.



Friday, August 7, 2009

How To Find The Right Franchise Opportunity For Your Small Business Goals

When someone wants to be their own boss, franchise advisors assist them in finding the right business. For example ..... Tennessee Business Brokerage is the Tennessee affiliate of The Entrepreneur Authority (TEA). TEA is the leading full-service franchise consulting firm. They have a national network of independent offices that provide business "matchmaking" services.

Their Franchipreneur 100 Listings Catalog represents established and emerging franchises, distributorships, and home-based business opportunities. Continuously evaluated against a database of thousands, the Franchipreneur 100 represents the best investment and entrepreneurial opportunities available. Investment ranges from $25,000 to $1,000,000+, so there is a business for every budget.

By design, they are NOT a franchise, they have no incentive to sell THEIR business. Rather, they allow candidates to choose the right business for themselves from the options they explore with them. They feel that if they were a franchise and actively selling their business, it would impair the judgment of their consultants and not properly align their motives with those of the candidate.

Uniquely, they are the only franchise broker network recognized by the American Association of Franchisees and Dealers (AAFD) and share their same mission of striking win-win deals between Franchisees and Franchisors through Total Quality FranchisingTM. Recently, they were awarded their Chairman's Award in recognition of our industry-leading process.

Additionally, their professional service fees are covered by the franchisors in their catalog, so there is never any charge to candidates and they will never be pressured or under any obligation, ever.

Their Beliefs .....

• They believe, above all, it is about the quality of the businesses they offer, not the quantity. They turn away ten times more than they accept.

• They believe the franchise consultant should be more than a "referral agent" who only conducts business over the phone and on the Internet -- their consultants personally meet each buyer.

•They believe buyers should be free to work with whomever they choose and explore all their options. They should never limit their choices, especially during the critical research process.

•They believe they are not "done with the Buyer" once they pay their franchise fees and are placed into a business. They remain their coach and they are always welcome to meet them for ongoing counseling and assistance. They want to see you prosper and be a future referral for TEA!

As TEA’s Tennessee affiliate, their process includes a thorough vetting of the Franchisors they work with, as well as a detailed evaluation of each prospective candidate. Their function is to assure that they match each candidate with the best opportunity for THEM, rather than applying some sort of “cookie cutter” approach. They firmly believe that if the candidate is successful, we all will be successful.

For more information go to: The Entrepreneur Authority or Tennessee Brokerage


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Software As Service (SaaS) And Microsoft Office Support For Small Businesses

One way to help small businesses operate efficiently and compete with much larger entities is through the use of OnDemand software or Software as Service (SaaS).

In addition to keeping management focused on delivering value to their customers, SaaS solutions give small business access to world-class infrastructure with very high reliability, security and high availability simply by having access to the web.

In addition small business can avoid the need to build and manage internal IT staff.

Unanet, offers such as service for project management, timesheets, expense reporting and resource planning. Such SaaS allows small government contractors, for example, to access systems with built in business rules and automation to more easily comply with government regulations regarding DCAA compliance, Per Diem and travel regulations, and earned value.

Another software resource for small businesses is the Microsoft Outreach Team. Some of the issues they run across the most are with regard to collaboration tools, calendar syncing, and server solutions.

Microsoft Office Live Workspace and Small Business solutions work well to integrate Microsoft Office programs to make their sharing abilities even more efficient. For example- if you already use Outlook you can use Microsoft Live to sync your team’s calendars- so you can see members’ availability at a glance. Also, Microsoft Office Live enables you to share documents with your team and the collaboration tools make it easy to work together. There are many benefits to this service – another is the free website and email tolls. The entire service is free- and expands the capabilities of your existing Microsoft Office Suite software.

To stay up to date on Microsoft Office solutions, product information, receive customer support, hold discussions with your peers and receive special previews please join the Microsoft Office Discussion Group on LinkedIn. This is a great place to share your expertise and learn more about templates, online solutions and tips to make better use of your Microsoft products.

For more information on Microsoft Office for your small business go here: Microsoft Office For Small Business


Monday, August 3, 2009

Resource For Small Business Purchase Or Lease Of Commercial Real Estate

For any small business owner considering buying any type of commercial real estate or leasing a location for their business, I suggest you look XSite Validation

XSite Validation ("XSite") has revolutionized the manner in which commercial real estate information is collected, compiled and analyzed. XSite’s technology is faster and more cost efficient then any team of analysts working for any financial institution, brokerage firm, or otherwise in the country ..... and is extremely cost-efficient to any small business owner or small business retailer.

In approximately 2 MINUTES, XSite provides the ability to aggregate critical information from over 20 of the industries most trusted and reliable data sources. Then evaluates 5,000 variables and produces a digestible, easy to read report (the “XRI Report”) in preparation of assessing XSite’s patent-pending objective scoring index (the “XRI Score™”). The report and score then determines the market viability of an identified property for a specified use.

The XSite Report is approximately 100-200 pages, complete with narrative, statistical, graphical and charting information. XSite’s technology dramatically reduces costs associated with data aggregation, compilation, research and analysis by up to 75% while creating a new profit center for some of its users.

XSite is a for small business that is not only relied on by the business itself ..... but inherently owners family and the families of their employees. XSite is a solution that is needed to stabilize, analyze and revitalize.

My perspective is that XSite has created that first "half-ounce of prevention" for the commercial real estate industry as a proactive measure to help safeguard against this current economic climate.

XSite especially tries to work within a "win-win" manner for non-for-profit associations whose members need this product ..... most likely to refinance as their loans are coming due. It is XSite's personal belief that you need to give back, not because of what you got, but because it is the right thing to do.