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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...

Monday, February 27, 2012

How Much Should You Pay Yourself As An Entrepreneur?

From a "tax perspective", if you are a sole proprietor, all of your profits are your income and your 'technically' do not pay yourself a wage. If you are a Corporation (or an LLC taxed as a Corporation), then you should be paying yourself a wage. And yes, many shareholders (owners) under value their services. However, if IRS audits your business and determines you've done this, they can re-assess some of the company profits as wages and make you pay payroll taxes (and penalties and interest) on the unpaid payroll taxes.

I would recommend that any business owner set up as a Corporation be sure to discuss with their accountant what a "fair" wage is for the services the owner is providing to the company. There are many factors to take into consideration when determining what a fair wage is...and that is not something that you can really compare to other business owners...it is something that matters to what your financial numbers are, what your goals are, what your profit percentage is, and the list goes on. The key is not getting caught in an audit for not paying enough to yourself as the owner of the business.

It really depends what the business can afford.

Your business will ebb and flow particularly at the early stages, at this point the best thing to do is take a very basic salary with a bonus structure which starts as soon as your business reaches the profit stages.

When your business is consistently profitable, you should re-evaluate your salary and take an increase equal in percentage to the business's annual growth rate.
In all circumstances, a regular assessment of your personal finances enables you to adjust accordingly.

Most small businesses work (or should) a business plan that has the following 2 drivers in determining the pay for the founders.

1. The % of ownership in the business based on investment in time and funds as reflected in an operating agreement.

2. The break-even point where the business begins to turn a profit and distribution of the proceeds is possible to the principal(s).

Short of the above, entrepreneurs must face that fact that ones value is driven solely by the success of the enterprise. For anyone to justify a standard quantification of that is "Sky Bluing" it with little meaning.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Do You Manage Your Social Media Marketing?

My advise is to focus on the marketing channels, including social media, which your target market is using. It’s the fish where the fish are thing.

The importance of using, blogs, Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, cannot be overstated as channels to disseminate your content, to create brand awareness, foster loyalty and build trust.

If you have a nice website, use it as the centre of your digital universe to drive traffic towards.

Remember your potential customers will consume content from different channels at different times during the day. And they will consume content differently depending upon where in the buying cycle they are. Your content, therefore, should be assessable across and packaged for different platforms and for different audiences types.

As you know all marketing efforts begin with creating content that is remarkable. Share on Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn .... and drive the traffic to a landing page on your website with the appropriate CTA buttons.

1 Create a blog post on subject.

2 Promote it on Twitter

3 Discuss the subject on your FaceBook Page

4 Create a presentation and share on SlideShare

5 Create a video on the subject, post on multiple video channels.

6 Bookmark you post on StumbleUpon

7 Create a Press Release and disseminate (if worthy enough)

8 Repackage your best post in your newsletter / email

9 Create an eBook on the subject

10 Use PPC, Google, FaceBook, LinkedIn ads to drive to a landing page with CTA buttons.

11 Experiment with content on each channel to see what is converting and driving website traffic.

The options are endless on how to promote your content. As we all know Marketing efforts as well as Social Media Marketing efforts are a slow burn that can build into a wildfire if you are persistent, consistent, and determined.

Remember content you create should target different parts of the marketing funnel, depending where in the funnel your prospective customer resides and your content should target different people. C-level need different content then engineers for example.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What Does It Take To Turn Good PR Into A Sale?

It takes strategically planned thought leadership and a carefully crafted image.

PR is great because it creates awareness...but awareness of what? Your brand? Okay, but why, how, what for?

There is value in a good press release and getting a few nice stories "out there" about you. But if you really want to move the needle and convert sales, you need to use PR in all forms (media relations, social media relations, industry visibility, speaking engagements, content marketing, events, etc.) to demonstrate thought leadership and subject matter expertise.

This is especially important for the small businesses you are working with because they can't afford the big budget mass promotion the large companies can. But, a small company can get involved with key associations, speak on panels, write white papers and share video, blog and twitter content that demonstrates not only their knowledge but that they are keeping up with trends and hot industry topics.

The biggest mistake people make in PR is to think it's just about one function (i.e. press release/media pitching) and they forget that is just one spoke in a very large wheel.



Good PR - This seems like an obvious, but most of what passes for good PR, isn't. PR is so frequently banal, condescending, untargeted or merely plain old bad, that I find myself boggling at what comes across my desk.

Good Product - This also seems obvious but, like good PR, is often not the case.

Good Targeting - You may have good PR and a great product, but if it's not something I'll ever care about...no sale.

Need/Opportunity - You can't manufacture this, despite what marketing tells you. You might convince me I need something, but that only works once and I'd better actually need it, or really want it.

When these work in tandem, you get a sale, otherwise, not.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Remove online Negative Feedback you’ve received

How and when can you remove negative feedback you’ve received online.

This is the big questions that many small business are struggling with today.

In order to remove negative feedback from online reviews you must first identify the source of the feedback.

 

Neil Licht, Privacy Internet Investigator, offers this approach as the most reliable approach.  “Online reputation management firms need investigative teams with experienced forensic investigators that will not only detect negative feedback but track it back to the source”  says Licht. “Most firms only burry them way down the search results order and do not get the comments permanently removed.  If only buried, Inevitably, these negative comments do surface again to influence folks.”

The removal process must be done as follows:.

Once identified it’s grouped into one of the following classifications: competitor, disgruntled employee, misleading or out of date information, fake or spam.

Now that you have identified the source and classification of the negative feedback, you can start tracking the complaint links and remove them from from coming up in search results on the Internet.

A complaint link can appear on a number of websites and usually ranks very well on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Many of the complaint websites like RipOffReport.com , ComplaintsBoard.com and Yelp also rank very well due to the volume of users and feedback links attached to the complaint.

When someone searches for you and you have a complaint on one of these sites, the complaint link will most likely rank in the top Search results on leading search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

The complaint links must be removed from these sites, not just suppress which is only a temporary fix resulting in the negative feedback returning.

Honest and Reliable Online Reputation Management Companies utilize innovative products and technology to remove negative feedback from attacks  for clients but only when it is determined to be competitor driven, disgruntled employees, fake or spam.

Says Licht “A trustworthy one will not remove truthful feedback and or reviews that are the actual current representation of the client and or there business.”

  • Their Investigative Team will work to remove not just suppress negative online content.
  • They specialize in uncovering the source of the negative feedback.
  • They will  contest the review at the source.
  • Their experienced forensic investigators can detect and identify the source and remove negative articles and blogs that are determined to be misleading, fake or spam.
  • Their legal advisor will send ‘cease and desist’ orders to the perpetrators of out-of- date, false, misleading and fake information. They will demand that the individuals who are responsible for these negative posts to immediately remove this information.

There’s more to it however since keeping your reputation solid is a full time job. “After they finish restoring your online image, as a trustworthy company they will protect it with 24/7 monitoring using automatic tools for alerts of what is being said about your firm from every review site, blog post, news article, forum & social media outlet on the Internet.” says Licht

To learn more about how to remove negative feedback and protect your online business reputation ask for a free consultation or call today for a confidential consultation at 1- 508-481-8567. Neil Licht

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Small Business People Challenges

Many small businesses struggle most with timing in terms of bringing people on board.

Start up service contractors face the dual problem of establishing the enterprise with the one-time, non-recurring activities necessary to get the operation underway and at the same time acquire the core management talent and subsequent help as the business grows.

Even established companies who enter service contracting find they cannot sustain a work force for large scale programs until the contracts are in hand to finance them.

A core team is an absolute necessity; it may be small and the business proposals may be few at first. But the core team product must be strategic in terms of high probability marketing to build the company base.

Supplementary help can be acquired by permanent ads at the company web site for generic skill sets, contingent hire agreements with prospective employees and similar techniques that position the resources on deck for business growth.

Small businesses commonly utilize contingent hire agreements to locate promising individuals who can bring projects or contacts with them when they join the firm. They are willing to negotiate a prospective wage and salary arrangement in advance of a proposal submission and commit to an offer of employment with benefits and commission should the program be won. They further offer to reimburse the participant for expenses and business related costs during the proposal period, if pre-approved.

The key to these arrangements is to identify target projects that both you and the candidate can go after, where the candidate is uniquely qualified to ....

(1) Help win the job

(2) Contribute heavily to the proposal. Just bringing someone on who has no ability to offer targets usually does not work.

Your main assets are the people that create and add value to your business. Bringing the right people is a difficult task. How do you know that they are fit for the job? How can you reduce your financial costs, and time spent on searching for the right candidate? I find it rational to use an online pre-employment assessment tool. This will drastically cut the costs for your business. There are many software applications of this kind out there, with large testing solutions databases. One I can recommend is eSkill.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How To "Test The Waters" For A New Business Venture

Your role and perspective is important - owner with the idea, investor, consultant, partner, etc. There a couple of things that shouldn't be skimped on or skipped over during the "diligence" phase.

-- Be careful about "believing your own internal press" and work to understand and validate the going-into-business and go-to-market assumptions.

-- Develop your purpose and vision for the business, and why you want to be in it besides making more money. Is there an end game?

-- Go beyond market research and engage prospects and customers to understand real needs, perceptions, problems, and buyers motivations

-- Get the overall business models - revenue, sales, marketing, and customer experience and process figured out before investing heavily in product or service development

-- Resist the urge to make strategic decisions based on what the competition is doing (see comment on assumptions!)

-- Engage prospects early and often and don't hesitate to shift your solution based on their input/feedback.

I have seen quite a number of start ups focus solely on creating plans to get the funding, and fail to adequately flush out the customer/marketing/sales models and lose sight of why they went into business.

Do your market research. If you can, develop a prototype or develop a proposed menu of services & proposed price list, etc. and get feedback from the prospective customers you will be targeting.

Remember that people love it when you ask advice so really listen to these survey takers and be open minded. I have seen some start-up businesses get such enthusiastic feedback from this kind of market research that they created a customer list with pre-orders in one example, and got multiple free consulting offers & business referrals ($100Ks in sales) in another example.

Do your market research by talking to not only potential clients or customers, but also your competitors. Find out what they are doing right, what do you like about their services - and can you offer that too. Find out what they are doing wrong -or how you can provide the same service in a better or more efficient manner. This also allows you to make personal and business connections, in addition to allowing you to "test the waters".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Small Business Trends For 2012

With the economy and turmoil in many parts of the world, companies must do all they can to lower operating overhead by increasingly using technology, having many employees work remotely and outsourcing whatever they can.

Organizations are going to be placed in a position where their Internet presence is going to play a critical part to their business success. I believe that many business will move away from the traditional “brick and mortar” in exchange for online stores. This will present opportunities to minimize overhead costs which will increase the amount of “work capital” in terms of Financial Capital.

Many people will begin to produce work from the comfort of their own homes (if they desire to be successful). The greater the Internet presence the less of time and money invested will be invested into traditional marketing. I believe that the Internet will be the igniter to “Word of Mouth” which I believe is still the most effective way of getting your message out. Just turn on your television and you will see that word of mouth is powerful even if it is build off of speculation, opinions and assumptions. These trends are actually present, and will spread amongst those who desire to increase their influence. We just have to be sure that the right message is being conveyed, that our consumers understand our message, and that it turns them into producers of quality IN-FOR-MATION.

Another major trend for 2012 will be the use of mobile technologies at all levels from micro to giant enterprises. Plus the growing utilization of cloud services that will help with operating costs, making it possible for small business to share the same resources of big corporations to reach smaller and further areas.

Globalization is still a growing trend that more and more corporations will start using to reduce cost. More trends we may see are economically still a struggle for credit and massive layoffs still coming, not much improvement in the USA economy, keeping up with budget cuts among government agencies, growing interest among small businesses to participate as government vendors, and incorporating more technology and resources into small business.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hottest Start-Ups For 2012

Below are the top 10 I have observed as "Hot" recently on the small business airwaves....

**On line administrative assistant

** Services to the elderly- transportation, errands etc

** Pet Care and Training Services

** Federal government contracting to tap stimulus funding coming through 128 federal agencies in almost every field of endeavor

** "GREEN " Environmental initiatives in almost every venue

** Maintenance, Repair and upkeep of foreclosed properties

** Non-profit organizations for community development chasing grants

** Self-Help Guides for Business

** Training on all aspects of small business Management

** On-line Books

These are the buzzwords for a VC startup for 2012:

1. avoid 'cloud'. Too overused

2. Mobile apps are still hot - smartphone customers are expected to spend $6.2 billion on more than 4.5 million downloads

3. Social apps - Facebook and LinkedIn are still hot

4. sharing, bartering, lending, renting and gifting--of goods, skills, money, space or services. This is what Entrepreneur magazine also said.

5. games - in any form

6. still the same-old niches - health, fitness, wellnes and environment

Successful small businesses are developing enterprises in these fields through market research and business plans to deliver unique products and services - then pricing them and comparing them to the existing market, the competition and client demographics to determine feasibility before applying for financing and launching an enterprise.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Self Employment Pros And Cons

Like every other profession, self-employment too has its own pros and cons. If you want to know, what will be your likes and dislikes later, first let's see: "I ask because I am considering self-employment." What are the reasons that prompt you to consider this?

1. Many people think once they are self-employed, they will be their own boss. Wrong ! Once you become self-employed, you will have so many bosses and you will have to meet their standards and their deadlines. (Every Mary sitting at the reception desk of a client now becomes your boss and if you are not friendly with her, she can curtail your access to the boss.) So, if you want to start a business, to become 'boss-less', well, you have a shock coming your way.

2. You want to become self-employed to make more money: well, you might make some dough, but, it will take at least 2 years, assuming you are lucky and/or you have an incredible product or service.

3. You want to be self-employed to spend more time with family. Not a good reason, unless your spouse already is earning in buckets. Self-employment means commitment to your work and clients, 24x7x365.

4. You want to become self-employed because you want to realize your potential and you feel money earned from it is incidental. Well, if this is the reason, you should take it up.

To be truly self-employed is almost always to be an entrepreneur, however small the scale of that role may be. Self employment is _not_ the same thing as being a contractor - a common enough role that is more often than not just a thinly disguised form of employment. To succeed at self-employment means having to take on a whole range of new skills or to amplify and use existing skills to best advantage; one is a sales person, a marketeer, a book-keeper, a designer, a manager, a writer, a logistics person and then when all those tasks are completed one still has the paying work to do; in short one may well be working 18 hours a day 7 days a week.

This is not a role that fits everyone; it requires passion, committment and motivation and a realistic understanding of the scope of the project.

In other words one is setting up in business - the fact that you are or will be the only employee is irrelevant. Like any other business it's necessary to have goals and a plan and not start out with the expectation that you will be making money - let alone a profit - from day one. These days one is lucky indeed if one can take any new business from startup to to break-even in a year. It's essential to be realistic about the funds you will need to get through that first year - and where they are coming from; maxing out credit cards or borrowing to get going is rarely a sane or sensible move *unless* you have already secured at least a couple of clients at sensible rates of remuneration.

Which raises the issue of how one calculates tha daily/weekly or other rate. In order to do that you need to know what simply staying alive costs you every year, and what your business expenses are likely to be; that allows you to calculate a daily rate, knowing that in the first 6 months you will probably only be working for money at 25-40% of your capacity - somewhere between 5-7 days a month.

If you choose this road, it is an act of entrepreneurship and should be seen as such. Entrepreneurship can be chosen as an act of desperation or a conscious choice. To say there is no security on this path is an understatement. However, once you accept responsibility for your career and its management you become the "boss", you set your own objectives, and although no one is really in control, you have the freedom to set your own agenda.

The best advice to give to someone about to walk on this road is to strongly suggest to view this act positively. Make a "business" plan even it is simple and set yourself milestones to achieve. Work methodically and with a clear sense of purpose.

If you handle this the "right" way, and I might add that there is no one right way, You will wonder why you didn't become an entrepreneur sooner.

Now, ask yourself: why do you want to become self-employed? Therein lies answers to the likes and dislikes of the profession !