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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Evolution From Web 1.0 To Web 2.0, To Web 3.0 For Small Business

The "we've come a long way Baby" phrase certainly applies to the worldwide web. More importantly is how businesses of all sizes now use this media. I would define 1.0 as static or read only, 2.0 as interactive, and I believe 3.0 will be characterized as being adaptive (or inteligent).

The early internet (Web 1.0) was purely a space for people who could build websites .... and companies that could afford them including the occassional adding of content or basic function. All vanilla ... no Tutti Fruiti.

I think we have to look at the tools we consider Web 2.0 to define what it is - Between blogs, social networks and constant communication we have seen the tools that bring the Internet to everybody and pull it from the dreary dungeons of its birth. Web 2.0 simplified the Internet and its tools are the resources people now use to adapt it and change it to their use without complex instruction or coding.

The direction much of the web seems to be going .... for small business at least ... appears to be "social media" marketing.

“Social media describes the online tools that people use to share content, profiles, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself, thus facilitating conversations and interaction online between groups of people.” Brian Solis, WebProNews.com

The third generation of the web, known more popularly as Web 3.0 is one that will be referred to as the “intelligent web”.

The intelligent web will incorporate features such as natural language search, data mining, recommendation agents, and artificial intelligence technologies in order to produce a more intuitive user search experience.

Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web will be apart of a strategy that will incorporate web development that is designed using machine-readable text. This means that the success of the semantic web is dependent on how people are inputting data, or feeding information to search engines/machines.

In order for machines to make sense of information as people do, they need to be programmed with a way to identify not only individual words, but also the concept of the words, and other related words. Once this has been done, new web standards for writing text, and tagging it for keywords that machines can read need to be developed and shared with people who are generating content for the web.

Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a language emerging to enable systems to understand a user’s intention, and is the building blocks of the “Semantic Web.”

Standards such as RDF are used to define metadata in a machine-readable way that enables machines to integrate distinct data assigning roles and relationships to words that enable the machine to make sense of the association of words as apposed to merely making a relation to words.

Web 3.0 is dependent on user generated tagging and linking to information across different platforms, providing context and depth to information online. When proper tags are assigned to content more precise search results are possible and more traffic can be driven to smaller websites and online publications.

OK .... now what's this all mean to you the small business owner.

Simple ... you have plenty of choices for what, where, and how to include the internet in your marketing arsenal. The decison is yours.

BUT .... you do need to get smart fast. If the internet is not part of how you're doing business .... than you are leaving a ton of money on the table rather than putting it in your pocket.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How Should A Small Business Promote Itself Without Breaking The Bank?

A smart small business will always look for the most cost effective approach to promoting itself .... especially in today's tough economic times. There are lots of ways to accomplish this so don't restrict yourself. Just be smart.

That said ... Press releases can be very effective because they enable reporters to talk about your company without the big investment in advertising. Plus, since it's the reporter saying good things about you, there is a high level of third-party credibility - ultra important these days.

PR "can" be a very effective tool if used in the right context. It really comes down to the type of product or service your selling, where you're targeting your PR, and the role you play in the final production of your piece (whether it be on the news, radio, or in a magazine or newspaper. You really need to keep your hand on the final work to ensure the media story doesn't misuse your words which may harm your business more than help.

PR is fine as far as it goes, but it only goes so far. Consumers don't read PR much, so the word needs to get out through more than just one media.

And when you're quoted by reporters in any media they *will* use your words out of context or weirdly to plant a spin you didn't intend. Their goal is not your goal.

It's still important to have a nice website that people can actually use to find more info than just the press releases. There needs to be interactivity, not just multimedia, which ins't truly interactive, but a sense of two-way communication.

You'll need to promote beyond just ads and press releases, by engaging your audience and rewarding them for that engagement, then giving them a chance and desire to spread the word for you!

All of this can be done without much cost other than time. Talk to a social marketing professional for ideas that capture the power of networking.

Now you have a few general concepts to pursue. Of course ... you have other options too. The best one ... is one you come up with that best fits "you". So be creative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure

This resource isn't purely for small businesses ... it can be used by individuals facing foreclosure on their homes, as well yield ideas for small businesses facing financial threats and potential loss of their business.

Whether you're in foreclosure now or worried about it in the future, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has put together information that can help.

Follow this link for information......

Guide To Avoid Foreclosure .

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Can Government Do To Help Struggling Small Businesses In Today's Economy

I warn you ... you may or may not agree or like what I'm about to say. You're welcome and encouraged to leave comments and put forth your own suggestions.

For one ... the government and news need to quit telling us how bad things are. As long as the general public believes that they cannot afford to buy, they will not.

The plain fact of the matter is that Small Business (<500 employees) creates more jobs. So it seems that the clear cut solution is to slash bailouts to those who have proven they do not deserve it (e.g Wall Street, auto industry). Rather re-allocate those funds to Small Business via the SBA or direct government loan programs at low interest rates. It seems that somehow the politicians have missed the obvious answer. Direct money to small businesses.

Basically we need the Feds to pass that money down to us to get this country back on track. Not giant business who have been irresponsible .... AND now expect us taxpayers to bail them out. I say let them go bankrupt! They have had more opportunity to be prosperous then most of us small guys ever will.

Here's another probably somewhat controversial idea .... government needs to stop the foolish notion of taxing productive behavior. It is true that we get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax. Taxing productivity is stupid public policy on it's face.

We should immediately switch from a tax on income to a tax on consumption, one time only, and only at the consumer level. A Harvard Study (cited in the Fair Tax book by Neil Boortz) has concluded that the average market basket of goods and services in America contains 23% embedded taxation, which is to say taxes on producers for intermediate work in process activities. If these taxes were removed via a switch to consumption tax American goods and services would immediately become on average 23% less expensive to produce. In a competitive environment this 23% would result in a price decreases at or nearly at this same percentage. American products are now equally profitable at a 23% price reduction. Talk about a competitive edge. That whooshing sound you hear is the rush of investment dollars back into our economy in concert with our renewed price competitiveness.

The cynic in me is convinced this can't happen, however. It provides the taxpayer the freedom to pay as much or as little tax as he or she wants, subject to how he or she chooses to spend or not spend his or her income. Politicians can't give taxpayers choices. They must use the tax system to shape behavior and buy votes. Consumption taxation takes the power from them and gives it to us.

The most popular version of the consumption tax out there now is the Fair Tax. I don't personally favor the Fair Tax per se as it is revenue neutral and I frankly prefer to defund this bloated pig of a government. But the concepts are the same, only the rate is debatable.

Ok, enough ranting. Now ... what do YOU think????

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Understanding Your Credit Report .... Small Business And Personal

Understanding your credit report and what effect it may have on your financial decisions can seem like a daunting, confusing, and sometimes nerve-racking task. Especially in the tough economic times we are facing today, many people may be reluctant to check their credit report, in fear that it could be more bad news. Your credit report, however, can have a large impact on your personal finances, including your decisions on purchasing a car or home, or the loans you get, job you take, and future savings you make. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides specific information and resources on how exactly to check your credit report and what your credit report means for your future.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

Why should I request a copy of my free credit report?

▪To make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

▪To help guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your personal information to open a new credit card account in your name and then not pay the bills, which will show up on your credit report.

How do I order my free report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a central way to contact them:

▪Visit Annual Credit Report

▪Call 1-877-322-8228

▪Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form can be found at Credit Report Request

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually; use this central contact information instead. Through this contact information, you can choose to either get a credit report from all three consumer reporting companies at the same time or space out your credit reports over the 12 month period, opting for a credit report from one company at a time. For more information on access to your credit report, click here.

What if I find errors — either inaccuracies or incomplete information — in my credit report?

By law, you are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take full advantage of your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

1. Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. The consumer reporting company will investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

For more information on how to dispute a credit report error, click here.

Are there other times I am eligible for a free credit report?

Besides the three credit reports you get from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – you are also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

If you are not satisfied with your credit report, there are ways you can improve it. For instructions on how to build a better credit report, click here. For information on using a credit counselor or debt management plan, click here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Online Video Advertising For Small Businesses

If you're a small business and haven't heard of the power of video advertising .... chances are your competitors do. If you want to not only keep up with the latest in marketing tools .... but get ahead of the curve .... adding video and social media marketing to your tool box is a must.

One resource worth looking into further ... SpotZero provides online video advertising and social media for small, medium and large-sized businesses. Online video is an effective and cost-friendly way for companies to get out a TV-style message (video ads, businesses profiles, comedy videos) at a much lower cost than traditional broadcast. Plus through the use of social media .... businesses now have a way to get that message out to a targeted audience that will help spread the word. This is called viral marketing ... a powerful free method which leverages a onetime effort/message into mass momentum via "sharing" of that message by and through others.

SpotZero offers a one stop online video advertising resource .... handling the creative, production and social media aspects of an online video marketing campaign for you. For more information dop by SpotZero.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How to Startup a Business

The best way to startup a business is to write a business plan. Actually ... a business plan is the first thing you need to do regardless. The business plan is your map for everything that comes after .... and will carry you through your first few years until you need to reassess and readjust as your business moves from new to mature.

When you write a business plan you will be forced to consider many startup issues. The more you know about your startup business issues the better you will perform and the richer you will get.

The startup business issues should be organized under the following headlines:

1. Business Concept for Startup

A good idea is only a good business idea if you are able to make enough money from it for you to live independently. Once you have got an idea, in most cases it needs adjusting and further development before it turns into a commercial concept.

- More Startup knowledge about Business Concept

2. Personal Resources and Objectives for Startup

Running a newly established company is a very personal thing as its owner is typically the only one present in the company. Therefore, it is important to emphasise to yourself and others alike that you do possess the capacity and resources necessary to run a business.

- More knowledge about Personal Resources and Objectives

3. Product/Service in the Startup

The product or service you offer is the lifeblood of your business. Thus, it is important to analyse its various aspects. Special attention should be paid to what the customers demand from the product or service.

- More knowledge about Product/Service

4. Market Description

Before you are able to carry out any sort of sales or marketing action you need to identify the market you want to penetrate. A good marketing result requires thorough market and customer insight.

- More knowledge about Market Description

5. Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing are your tools to approach potential customers in order to raise interest in your product or service. Whether to run local newspaper advertisements, direct mails, work out an internet solution, or attend international trade fairs, is entirely dependent on what you sell and what customer profile you want to approach.

- More knowledge about Sales and Marketing

6. Practical Organizing of a Startup

You need to describe the every-day running of your company and also take into account the cost of arranging and running your business.

- More knowledge about Practical Organising of Startup

7. Business Development

It is hard to think 3-4 years ahead even before your business is up and running. It would, however, be an advantage if you at this early stage can envision the outlines of an even bigger and more interesting company than the one you start out with.

- More knowledge about Business Development

8. Budgets in Startup

Budgets are the above topics described in economic terms. The more specific the plans, the easier it becomes to work out budgets. Budgets will also contribute to the concretizing of the plans and it is ok to go back and change plans if the budgets prove them unrealistic.

- More knowledge about Budgets

9. Financing the Startup
Financing merely means: "How do I raise the funds that I need to startup my own business?"

- More Startup knowledge about Financing

There you go. Follow the outline above and use the information from the added resources and you'll have a better chance of a successful startup business.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Everywoman Network Connects Female Entrepreneurs

The everywoman network connects female entrepreneurs and women in business. Their vibrant network allows members to discuss online, contact others directly and state business objectives so others can help.

Everywoman Network

Everywoman is a leading provider of training, resources, and support services for women in business. They also have access to training funds for women who want to take a course / get coaching through them (in the UK).

Everywoman Training

Everywoman has also developed an electronic business mentoring service that offers members online access to business mentors, coaches, expert advisors and specialists - all within a secure, well structured environment.

Everywoman Mentoring

Bottom line is every woman engaged in business at any level can benefit from the resources, information, and support available through the Everywoman Network.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Commonsense Approach To The Economy....Effect Of The "Stimulus" Package On Small Business

My apologies for the length of this ... but there's no link to refer ya'll to. I received this as an email newsletter from my Congressman today (Randy Forbes, VA)....so it has to be complete text.

Regardless of your political leanings ... what's your thoughts on what Rep Forbes says about commonsense? Particularly in regards to the impact/effect on your small business (e.g. current bailout package vs "something else" you'd recommend).

======================

....The Commonsense Approach....

Normally, you and I receive our daily dose of bad news by turning on our television, plugging in an internet connection, or walking to the end of our driveways to pick up a newspaper. However, these times are different. Today it is delivered by a best friend who has lost his job and can¡¯t sleep at night because he fears he will lose his home, or by one of our children graduating from college and quickly discovering there is no job market, or by someone with whom we work or attend church who has received the life transforming news of a major illness.

Last week, I received the news from my nephew that he had just watched his house burn to the ground. When I arrived, I looked into the eyes of a man who worked multiple jobs to keep his family going, and I watched as his children sifted through ashes to find the charred remains of memories they can never replace. No words were needed; it was a picture I will never forget. I stared in the face of a family I love, who was experiencing the realization that they had lost in a matter of moments every material item they had worked for, received as a gift, or built for over a lifetime.

Across America today there are families just like this who worry when the quietness overtakes them that this economic crisis burning across the globe could overwhelm them with a similar fate. Individuals expecting to retire see those hopes dashed in a moment. People working multiple jobs to keep their families afloat lose their jobs in an instant. Young people with their entire lives before them recognize that their hopes and dreams may be lost because they either cannot afford to attend college or cannot find a job once they graduate.

That is why we need a bold plan of action, perhaps initially led by government, but not totally dependent upon it. It has to be innovative, but most of all it has to be an effective solution ¨C not just effective rhetoric. In this effort, Americans have been far ahead of their politicians. They realize that a bold plan is not measured by its costs, but rather by the strength and wisdom of its ideas. They also know it is not measured by what the editorial writers or TV pundits say. And they know it is not measured by its complexity. Instead it is measured by a single criterion ¨C does it work?

In order to work, it must have accountability and transparency, and it must pass the simple commonsense test.

The simple questions we can all ask are these:

1. Have you received your check from any of the bailouts yet? I can assure you many of the CEOs on Wall Street have.

2. Are you able to borrow more easily today than you were six months ago before all of these bailouts began?

3. Are you less worried about your future now than you were before the bailouts began?

4. If the government asked you if you would feel better about your economic situation by keeping $6700 for your family, or sending it to the government and asking them to spend it however they would like, which one would make you feel better?

I am one of only 16 out of 435 Members of the House of Representatives who has voted against every single bailout and stimulus package in the last two years. I did so because the packages lacked those critical principles of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. Unfortunately, even many of the original proponents of the programs admit that they have not worked and that they will not work. However, it is our grandchildren who will be paying for many of them, years after we are gone.

Commonsense tells us that if we are trapped in the woods with a wild animal attacking us and we have only one gun and five bullets, we have to act fast, but effectively. How foolish we would be to fire all five bullets in the air without aim, in our haste to act suddenly. We would soon be out of ammunition. Instead, we would carefully target our shots because we may not get a second chance.

These bailout programs have been more like randomly shooting in the air than a targeted attack.

This week we voted on the biggest stimulus package yet. It is the most expensive single piece of legislation Congress has considered, and the total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government in 2007. I voted against the $819 billion stimulus package because it, like all of the others, failed to meet those three principles of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. Here are some things you should know about the stimulus bill that came before Congress this week that your children and grandchildren will be paying for.

* It spends an average of $222,972 for every job it creates, with the average salary for those jobs in Virginia being just over $35,000.

* The legislation contained 152 separate spending lines. Only 34 of those spending lines went directly towards saving jobs for Americans, like highway construction projects. 117 had no job saving estimate associated with them at all, like $1 billion for the 2010 census or $800 million in funding for Amtrak.

* To impact our current recession, any spending must happen fast. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said only $26 billion of the spending approved in the package is capable of being spent in fiscal year 2009, hardly providing the amount economists say is necessary to have a meaningful impact on our economy.

* The total cost of this package per family in Virginia¡¯s Fourth District is nearly $6,700.

I will continue to work for the opportunity to develop a bipartisan solution for the families we all love, but this is not the time to shoot aimlessly in the air and hope we hit our target. America is too great for that ¨C our destiny too important. We must succeed, for the price of our failure is far too great.

=================

Friday, February 6, 2009

Entrepreneur & Small Business Resource Library

Akira Hirai, Managing Director for Cayenne Consulting LLC, created the Entrepreneur's Library, a well-organized directory of resources for entrepreneurs at:

Resources

Although some of the resources are geared towards businesses seeking venture capital, most are appropriate for small businesses of all types. So I suggest dropping in and seeing what you can apply to your own business purposes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Small Business - How To Manage Your Time

Most of us view time reporting and approval as a standard business function for many small (and large) service organizations. Though there are many feature rich solutions in the market to choose from ..... many a business or non-profit just needs a time tracking and approval system that is simple, convenient, and inexpensive. TimeXchange.net fills the niche.

TimeXchange

Their emphasis is focused on two key points - make the set up of projects and time entry easy, and connect everyone in the reporting and approval process regardless if they are inside the company's walls or not (including clients and distributed project teams).

The solution that most organizations employ when all the bells and whistles are too much is the good old spreadsheet. It's inexpensive, but basically electronic paper that gets printed in the end. With the TimeXchange system you get a web-based exchange where a project is created, team members are defined by role and invited to the project, and approvals take place before a single piece of paper is wasted. They also have some convenience features like seeing where you are against a budget of hours while entering time .... and an iPhone companion app that can capture time and send it to your TimeXchange account to be edited and submitted for approval. They also provide an option of using a timesheet time entry method (duration) and a timecard entry method (time in/time out). Nothing fancy, just easy.

For users who just need basic time reporting and approval the key is to keep it simple. The fee to subscribe to our service is $19.95 (non-recurring) and any member can connect with any other member for no additional cost. Hopefully you spreadsheet users will find that interesting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Web Marketing: What Does Obama's Success Using The Web Say About The Power It Has For Small Businesses?

In case you really didn't follow the happenings, Obama, I believe with the help of MoveOn.Org used the web extensively to recruit for his grassroots organization and to collect money at an unprecedented rate. He has changed presidential elections forever.

I believe it was his web marketing strategies that paid a big part in his winning.

What does this say about the web as a tool for small businesses to have more than just a simple static brochure on their sites? Is it proof that the web is going to become the primary source of business in the very near future? Does it say you can clobber your competition if you find the right strategies?

1) His website wasn't a static "here's what I believe in and stand for" website. It was a Community Builder that encouraged interaction and feedback. Blogs, video, you name it.
2) He used this model to expand to practically every social media network possible that fell in line with giving-and-taking feedback from potential voters.
3) His team was relentlessly dedicated to communicating on a daily basis via email/text with everyone who opted in to receiving communication from the campaign. 4) Even after the election was over, this communication from the campaign continued.

I think a big part of success on the web is about being found (i.e. search engine marketing) and then when you are found, being relevant, current and accessible on your site. In other words, you can't make your website all about you. If you can't show understanding of your target audience and the current challenges they're facing, it doesn't do much good to talk about your core values and when the company was founded. Think about what kind of interactive tools you can incorporate into the site to encourage communication and repeat visits such as blogs, podcasts, video chats, downloadable White Papers, etc. Then -- just as importantly -- use these tools consistently. When does the communication stop? Just as Obama's campaign shows, it never stops.

The web has tremendous potential potency for a company that knows how their specific audience likes to communicate and receive info online. So much so that it can be the greatest source of leads in any company's brand strategy if used correctly.