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

Small scale businesses are easier to set up compared to the middle or large scale businesses that require more time, feasibility reports, ad...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Recession Proof Your Business - How to Avoid Business Failure & Increase Sales in a Lagging Economy

When you’re a small business owner there’s no “Golden Parachute”, no Massive Severance Package or Stock Options to cash in on and there are definitely no bailouts. The success or failure of your small business is all on your shoulders! Here Are 5 Things to Do If You WANT Your Business to Fail During a Recession ....

Read the rest of this article HERE

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Online Bookkeeping Resource Tool For Small Businesses

The recently launched beta version of IAC-EZ is an instant, affordable, online bookkeeping application for small business owners.

Based on their belief that self-employed individuals and small business owners should be able to manage their own books to stay in better control of their business ..... without having to struggle, spend money or learn complex skills ..... IAC-EZ is designed specifically to take the hassle out of bookkeeping for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

You can try it out for free at IAC-EZ

Want to know a little bit more? Here's a testimonial from happy user Alexander McMillen, President/CEO of Sliqua.com.

"With previous bookkeeping solutions, such as Quickbooks, I was reluctant to keep up-to-date records and would put things off to the last minute. But with IAC-EZ, not only is keeping up with the books easy, but it's FUN. I cannot believe that I'm saying that bookkeeping / accounting software is actually fun to use, but it truly is. Within a matter of hours, I've already imported three months of expenses with ease, and all my customers and invoices were imported from Freshbooks automatically. IAC-EZ is really Bookkeeping MAGIC in the making. Great job folks!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best Small Business Resources ..... "Follow Me" Toll Free 800 Service

This simple tool makes business easier....AND more profitable for your small business.

What is it? Kall8.

What is Kall8? Kall8 is a toll-free number, but the definition of Kall8 service doesn't stop there. In fact, it only starts there because Kall8 adds a lot more features and capabilities with the toll-free service. Consider for example:

* The user can go online at any time and change where their Kall8 toll-free number rings to. This is ideal for sales reps, real estate agents, etc who need to be always available to their customers.

* The user can setup a schedule, so that the Kall8 number rings in the office during business hours Monday through Friday, and to his cell phone or home phone after business hours.

* Kall8 also will take a voicemail message for you, which you can listen to by calling your voice mailbox from any phone, or have your voicemail emailed to you.

* Calls can be recorded, so that if you are doing a conference call for a great business deal, you can listen to the call afterwards to make sure everything is covered based on exactly what was said. This feature can also be used for training new employees or capturing important weekly training calls.

* If you have multiple locations, Kall8 can route the incoming call to the nearest location, based on where the caller is calling from.

* International toll-free numbers are available for many countries if you have a customer who is trying to create a professional international image.

* Detailed billing is provided every month.

* Vanity numbers are available.

All of these features make the Kall8 service much more than simply a toll-free number, but make this service a true "business partner" to increase productivity. Allow your customers to spend less time playing "voice mail tag" and more time being in touch with you!

For more info .... go to Kall8 Toll Free 800 Service

Friday, January 23, 2009

Where Can You Find Free Training On How To Sell Your Small Business Services Online?

There are many quality free resources available for small business owners in all kinds of things. Sometimes though you just need to pay for it to get what you REALLY need.

The one resource I would definitely recommend even though there is a cost is a membership to TechRepublic. It provides a plethora of resources to include training, contract templates, etc.. for all areas not just IT.

Another resource with a reasonable cost I highly recommend is the full SBI package for creating a custom business website that includes built in SEO features to kick start (and maintain) your online marketing at a higher pace. You can learn more at .... SiteBuildIt

SBI also has free training for selling your services online at Service Masters

More resources which I find value added are:

* Free Sales Training - this site has many other free sources as well for all aspects of running a business

* Online Business Toolbox

* Free Online Sales Training

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Small Business Consulting Resource

Jonathan Ross of Black Rock Consulting offers a myriad of services specifically for small businesses. Below is a description of what he can do for you from Jonathan himself.

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I’m a small business owner and operator with a boutique Business and Communications Consulting practice. I offer an integrated suite of services that at the core, focus on my ability to objectively analyze situations and markets following diligent research; to identify, articulate and hone creative solutions within a definable strategic framework; to efficiently operate on a tactical level to ensure that the necessary work gets done; and finally, to invest myself in the client’s success by serving as a business advocate and sounding board where appropriate.

My project management background provides real value to business owners because I am capable of implementing solutions and not simply making suggestions which may or may not be acted upon. I can provide very tangible value in guiding business owners through the often confusing digital media landscape, ensuring that they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous vendors and/or developers that fail to understand the importance of establishing a clear methodology, such as developing written Business Requirements which support the actual business objectives and subsequently creating both Functional and Technical Specifications that guide all subsequent development and production efforts.

As a skilled writer, I can effectively communicate the client’s message through a wide range of executive and investor-facing deliverables, such as Business Plans, Strategic Plans, and the like, as well as through copy written for digital and print marketing materials.

I understand the needs and viewpoints of institutional as well as private investors and the various entities (investment banks, deal brokers, attorneys, etc.) that invariably become stakeholders in financing transactions.

In short, I help fellow small business owners navigate a maze of often overwhelming and conflicting information to find the solutions which meet their needs and provide a ROI measurable in monetary, knowledge and peace of mind terms.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Social Networking Resource For Small Businesses

One of the key ways for entrepreneurs and small businesses to succeed is to connect and share knowledge with others in their field. Increasingly, this is being done online using social networking websites.

RedWire is one such online community devoted solely to entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is a place to connect with other entrepreneurs for collaborative knowledge sharing, and a tool to expand your contacts and draw upon a greater pool of resources.

RedWire allows you to create a profile, list events and groups, and access content from experts in all areas of business.

You can check out the community at Redwire Nation

Friday, January 16, 2009

What's The Difference Between "Partnering" And "Outsourcing"?

The terms "partnering" and "outsourcing" are thrown about so frequently .... and in so many contexts .... that it's hard to nail down an exact definition for either.

These two practices are becoming ever so common among the business community, and although the distinction between them is becoming increasingly blurred, they do have distinguishing traits, which bear consequential benefits and risks.

It has been said that the practice of outsourcing should be looked upon not as a simple customer-vendor relationship, but rather as a partnership where the engaging parties mutually benefit from their agreement. While this may be a sound management practice, and while outsourcing shares many of the same characteristics with strategic alliances, outsourcing should be recognized as its own distinctive tactic.

Outsourcing is the contracting of services via monetary means in order to minimize or limit the resources that would normally be required to perform business functions internally, thus reducing costs.

A partnership, on the other hand, does not necessarily involve monetary payment from one firm to another, or a binding contractual agreement between two companies.

Rather, it is a partnership in which business entities collaborate with one another in order to bring about mutual benefits. This partnership can range from a loose and informal one, to more formal joint ventures, which involve legal measures to set parameters. Such alliances might include practices such as the partnering of manufacturers and retailers in order to reduce logistics costs, or the engagement of hardware and software development firms to create competitive advantage through synergy. Indeed, there are almost infinite ways in which strategic alliances can be formed.

The point here is that outsourcing and the formation of strategic alliances, while similar in some ways, are normally used to achieve different outcomes and involve different methods of binding between the participants.

Partnering will be used more and more in these hard times. If I outsource a job to you, then you are paid a fee to complete your services regardless of the outcome of the project under which your services were rendered. If on the other hand we partner on a project, while you are not a partner per se, I would expect you to provide your services contingent upon the success of our project. If the project failed, you would not get a fee, but if the project were a success, you would expect a much larger fee for your services than if you'd been hired as an outsource.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How To Establish Credit For Your New Small Business?

As a new business owner, you will be using your personal credit history and potentially personal assets to secure any credit lines from institutions. It is possible that you may be able to get 30 day terms on purchases from a couple of vendors, but for the most part you will be paying by credit card or COD. Over time, you will obtain 30 day terms from your vendors. As far as banks are concerned, you are likely to be required to go the SBA route which requires the business owner to nut up roughly 25% of the assets in the firm and, depending on your credit history, collateralize the loan with some assets. Even this loan will require you to personally guarantee it. As the firm grows and acquires assets, loans can be setup with security from the firm itself and if your business is strong you may be able to avoid a personal guarantee on this loan eventually.

With regard to Dun and Bradstreet, I wouldn't bother contacting them. If you have been in business a while, they will already be tracking your credit. Furthermore, if you are just starting your business, they will begin tracking your credit via the firms you do business with. The only benefit to contacting them is to see what is on your credit now. This will cost you about $300 if I recall correctly. As a small business, your credit references and history with your vendors carry far more weight with potential new vendors as you set up terms.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What Is The Best Payment Gateway For Small Start-up Websites?

I always recommend ecommerce websites that need more than Google Checkout or Paypal to go with Authorize.net. Their fees are actually pretty competitive compared to most non peer-to-peer solutions like Paypal.

If you are unhappy with the fees I would say go with Paypal or Google Checkout as these are probably the easiest to implement non-merchant account based solutions available.

In order to remain in operation, you have to build up a certain level of trust with your customers while keeping your payment processing costs to a minimum. In this respect, both PayPal and Google Checkout should offer you what you need; the setup for both is relatively simple and the fees are competitive. Both carry a certain trust factor with the consumer, and Pay Pal offers the buyer added protections. In addition, the customer does not have to have a PayPal account to pay for their purchase by credit card, and you get your money instantly.

If your sales are less than say 3k a month .... then gateway fees, etc. can be high with a vendor like Authorize.net or PayQuake.com. Otherwise .... Authorize.net is a viable option.

What I suggest is a shopping cart with Paypal and 2Checkout.

Why two? Some people love paypal, some hate it. Personally I would think you'd rather get the sale even if the per transaction fee is higher than what paypal charges.

Now, if your hosting service offers something called "fantasico", something you probobly might have passed by when you hosted with them, then you have two shopping carts. You can click a few buttons and the cart could be on your website. I think it's Zen Cart and ? OsCart, don't hold me to it, but there are two you can choose from.

Which shopping cart you choose really depends on what you want, what you are capable of doing yourself, OR can pay to have done.

Remember ..... if you pay for a shopping cart, make sure that it integrates with an auto responder system. This way when someone buys what you have, they automatically get put on an email list you've designated.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Is The Ideal Banking Strategy For A New Small Business?

The best banking strategy for a small business? Have a line of credit set up before you need it.

That means you need a business plan, or at least cash flow projections. For your own use, you need to have a worst case scenario to determine your maximum needs. That should be your target for funding, although you won't necessarily share that with lenders.

A line of credit with vendors is always a good thing as they are, in essence, a free source of funds. Although that can go sour really quick if you don't maintain a good payment history. But, for every vendor you can pay at 30 days, that is a 30 day loan you don't have to take out.

Depending on your business, there are sources of funds besides banks, and depending on circumstances can be reasonably priced. I'd Google for those options.

And, as much as possible, you don't want to sign personally on the loan, nor collateralize it with personal assets, although it is unlikely you will be able to achieve that, at least initially.

Since my brother-in-law is an accountant, I would be remiss if I didn't insist that you keep a good set of books. You can't manage what you don't measure, and the way businesses (and lenders) keep score is in dollars and cents. So, keep those numbers current and accurate and that will go a long way in helping you manage your business.

Another idea would be to try a lean approach to banking.

The first step is to ensure that you have a solid cash flow budget that considers the costs and delays in funds availability. This is the ultimate tool in managing banking for a small business. Have a candid and open discussion on banking services with the bank of your choice.

Keep in mind that banking and treasury management go hand in hand in a small business. Consider each method of payment and consider the costs of settlement for transactions (e.g., wire receiving fees). Most to all banks have online resources to help manage banking and treasury activities. The basic backbone of banking strategy is to separate the accounts by type: operating (one for receipts and another for disbursements), payroll, and legal (for escrow and sinking funds). These would typically be checking accounts.

Synergize where your customers and vendors will use the same bank. Transfers between you and your customers and vendors will then have minimal to no cost. For customers and vendors who do not use the same bank, and do not accept ACH or credit cards, utilize tools like PayPal to minimize transfer fees. Additionally, with customers and vendors who do not use the same bank as your business, consider funds availablity if tools like PayPal are used.

Although this type of plan is not formally a part of your business plan, prepare a grid to "map" quickly and concisely the potential costs of doing business for 1) customers using the same bank and 2) customers using a different bank. This will also help you to manage the true cost of serving customers. Also, have this plan handy when you have discussions with your bank on the cost of services they provide.

There you go .... might look like Greek but all of it is important. Just wait until your head stops spinning and reread it all again. Do that until it sinks in .... it's that important.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Benefits Of Using A Virtual Assistant

Before I even mention benefits .... this point needs to be made if you are seriously considering using the services of a Virtual Assistant (VA).

Screening the individual is key .....

1. Know what skillsets you want .... strong writing ability, independent thinker, self starter, time efficient, computer program literacy, etc.

2. Ask them to demonstrate .... don't just ask them if they have these qualifications: "While we're here on the phone, could you quickly draft me a letter that discontinues a professional relationship? Give it any recipient name you want". The same applies for online conference software programs, phone behavior, and spelling.

3. Consider using a VA outsourcing company (there are loads out there) and ask them questions about how they screen for consultants.

4. Use a probationary period.

5. Be capable of clearly communicating your expectations and instructions. Too many overlook their role in the successful outcome of using VAs.

The benefits of working with a virtual assistant are impressive for any small business ..... you can:

* Gain new business
* Increase your profits
* Grow your marketing campaign
* Foster improved customer relations
* Provide personalized follow up
* Amplify productivity
* Enjoy success
* Exceed goals
* Expand customer base
* Dedicate your time ON your business

As for the benefits of Outsourcing.....

* No vacation pay
* You pay for ONLY time on task
* Handles your seasonal projects
* No need to buy office equipment
* No computer training
* Convenient when your staff is overloaded
* No additional office space is needed
* No health benefits to pay
* No extra money for workman's comp. ins.
* YOUR expert is ONLY a click away

Keeping this in mind, it is vital to establish goals, responsibilities, expectations, and accountability. Setting clear project descriptions will help to ensure you received your desired results. Communicating your needs, values, and desires to your VA helps to lay a proper foundation for mutual success and growth.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Small Business Resource For Task And Project Management

As a small business owner it is crucial to have the ability to track and manage your time and efforts .... and those of your staff.

For a recommended resource to accomplish this check out Intervals for small business time tracking, task management, and project management tools. Especially if you are starting out and need to adapt to a proven workflow.

Intervals is a web-based service that marries time tracking and task management in a personalized online space with powerful reporting. Convenience and performance are the keys here.

The service and tools provided by Intervals are ideal for small businesses; especially designers, web shops, consultants, IT services firms, and communications companies that bill on an hourly or project basis.

Their list of features includes:

* Comprehensive Time Tracking
* Task Management and Workflow
* Project Management
* Document/File Storage
* Powerful Visual Reporting
* Invoicing
* Web-based timers
* Weekly timesheet submissions
* Export data to CSV
* Secure and personalized
* Detailed task and work request history
* Real-time budget vs. actual

They even have a convenient tool which calculates what your time is costing you by hours per day, hourly rate, and number of staff.

You can learn more about Intervals and view there impressive list of services here:

Intervals

Friday, January 2, 2009

Are Small Businesses The Answer To The Financial Crisis?

In Small Businesses the "Thinkers" (strategy and innovation) are often also the "Doers"; so the ability to take immediate action on a new idea or direction is there.

So, are Small Businesses the key to economic recovery?

Statistics and data clearly show that Fortune 500 companies have collectively shed 7 million jobs in the last 20 years ..... while the overall economy added 35 million jobs in that period. So what do you think created these extra jobs and where did they come from? It's all the entrepreneurs who started small and some of them subsequently gathered momentum and scale.

Given the above numbers and statitics, I would tend to agree that small businesses could solve some of this. However this financial crisis is somewhat different from the recession in 1993/94 or 2001/02 .... and even the two cycles before.

In solo businesses thinkers and doers are the same people. But as they start to grow and employ more people and gather scale, the role of the founder changes a bit and evolves with the business. They may become more "them" than "us" down the road.

In times of economic turmoil and consequently higher unemployment, it is common that some of the professionals that were laid off may take the initiative of beginning a new career path ..... as independent consultants or as entrepreneurs by beginning a small business.

Although it is probable that most entrepreneurs will fail 2 years after of having begun ..... and angel investors with the willingness of contributing capital will be scarce ..... past history taught us that many of the innovations that generated new and revolutionary products were initiated in times of economic uncertainty, market instability, and financial restrictions. And were consolidated once the economic landscape began to experience a healthy and sustained recovery.

That being so, the adagio that says that "Necessity is the Mother of the Invention" appears to be true.

In my humble opinion, this wave of innovation happens when talented professionals .... after being laid off from companies where they worked unhappily in the past and without a promising professional future ..... feel compelled to be creative, to develop an innovative mindset and explore beyond their comfort zones to survive, grow and succeed.

So with that in mind ... yes. In the long term, small businesses are key for the financial recovery.