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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...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Small Business Marketing Tips...How To Use Social Media Effectively

In a society where business is becoming ever more anonymous and remote, social media brings back the personal touch and allows companies to build up relationships with their customers. It is also a relatively cheap form of marketing as the main cost is time, and it can have an immediate impact. Here are some things top consider.

Choosing Social Networks

There are a number of large all-encompassing social networks you can join to market your business and we'll look at a handful of these in a moment. However there may be smaller networks such as membership sites or forums that relate very specifically to your business or your niche market, and it may be worth including these in your social media strategy if you believe your customers are more likely to use them. Some of the more common social networks are:

Facebook is the best known social network with over one billion users. You can create a specific business page for your company where you can post updates, links, photos, and videos, as well as running polls and competitions. When other Facebook users 'Like' your page they will be kept up to date with everything you post. Facebook is a very versatile network and it works especially well for B2C marketing as a huge number of people have a personal Facebook account.

Twitter is a fantastic way to broadcast messages quickly to a large number of people. Once you have created a Twitter account for your company you can 'Tweet' short messages of up to 140 characters which can include links and various types of media such as photos. Twitter is good for B2B or B2C marketing as Twitter accounts can be personal or for business. It is usually easier to get a large number of followers on Twitter than on Facebook.

LinkedIn is often seen as a tool for recruitment but for businesses it can be far more than that. LinkedIn is great for B2B marketing as you can join groups that relate to your business and interact with other professionals within those groups. Members of LinkedIn tend to be executives over the age of thirty, and the network is especially useful for companies involved in information and technology services, financial services, higher education, computer software, and telecommunications

Pinterest is an image based social network so it is ideal if you are selling a product or service that is visually appealing. On Pinterest you can create pin boards of web pages or images which could include your own material or anything published online. It is a great way to associate your company with other brands or particular styles, and appeals particularly to women. You can even create a simple online shop using Pinterest.

Google+ is still relatively new in social media terms but its use is gradually increasing. It has business features that aren't available in Facebook or Twitter. You can join a community (a group based around a particular interest) as a company, not just as an individual. You can also use the 'Hangout' function to hold group meetings, discussions or demonstrations. Google+ is particularly appealing to a male audience.

Would you like to know more about how to start and grow your own small business? Then get my free guide "The Only 7 Tools You Need To Boost The Profits Of Your Business In 2014 And Beyond" at http://www.startupsuccess.co.uk/blog

Steve Carter is founder of Startup Success and a serial entrepreneur who has built and grown his own businesses in a variety of industry sectors.

By Steve X Carter

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Basics of Creating a Small Business Plan

Starting a new business can be a daunting task but a rewarding one. This article is meant to help give some direction to someone that is thinking about starting their own business. A general idea of what ground work you need to think about and start planning for if you are serious about pursuing your dreams and making them become a reality.

First, you need a business plan which may seem cumbersome but is extremely necessary to flesh out the feasibility of your ideas. Not to mention a good business plan is vital to gaining loans or grants to fund the project.

A Business Plan should at least include but is not limited to the following:

1. Name of the business
2. Who are your competitors?
3. What makes your product or service better than your competition?
4. Do you have any strategic business partnerships you can leverage?

• If you are a caterer can you partner with a hall? This way you are guaranteed so much business & start a word of mouth client base.

5. Definition of who your customers are

6. How you are going to market & sell to your customers

• Are you going to use website, flyers, radio ads, strategic partnerships
• Market analysis can be done with the help of:

US Department of Commerce and Census Bureau
National Trade and Professional Association directory
Web-based: Google Trends, Trends Map & Social Mention Linked-in
Annual Survey of Buying Power produced by Sales and Marketing Management magazine - This can help with projected revenues.

7. Define your product or service
8. Develop a mission statement, branding & message you want to advertise
9. Legal Paperwork -

• Need a license, then speak to your state's department of licensing and regulatory affairs.
• Patent ideas -Contact the Patent and Trademark Depository Library. Find out if you have an original idea and who to talk to if you need a patent attorney.
• Copyrights have to be registered with the government for about $65.
• Determine what type of business you are going to register under ie

- Sole proprietorships register a "Doing Business As" with the county clerk.
- Limited Liability Corporation(LLC), INC, PLC register with the state ie MI Dept of Energy & Labor

Working with a lawyer that specializes in zoning and business law can be helpful to avoid pitfalls. They can set you up with legal paperwork for clients to sign in an effort to reduce settlements. Business lawyers can help keep clients from coming after personal assets in the case of lawsuits ie LLC setup. They may have ideas depending on how you setup your business as to what insurance you will need too. As anything it is good to get at least three bids from different companies to get the best deal for your business.

10. What are you going to need to get your business up and running?

• New Structure & Land - Contact the planning office about zoning laws and building permits
• Existing structure - Contact the planning office about zoning laws and who to contact about getting a licensed inspector because not all inspectors have any ie electrical or HVAC licenses. If you run a business out of your primary residence you can sometimes bypass a business tax on your property but may need a inspection to make sure you are compliant with current codes. Check to see what local laws apply to you.

11. List of Expenditures ~Split into initial setup fees & annual cost of doing business:

Business Lawyers

Zoning & buying land, Setup of DBA or LLC + registration fees,client legal forms to reduce settlements, Copyrights/ Patent Costs and Business Insurance

Licensed Skilled Trades

Inspector Fees, Permits, licensed electrician/ HVAC/ plumber to bring you up to code.

Equipment / Supplies

Renting Building, computer, printer/fax/copier, Bulk supplies, Used/ surplus equipment

Marketing /Sales

Initial Market Analysis Costs, $120 setup a domain name & website/yr, $200/yr list with search engines & use clickthrough services to increase web traffic, flyers & radio ads

Employees

Your annual wage & health Insurance, employee wages, Payroll accountant or software. Speak to a business account to see if you need software for payroll that includes health insurance/workmen's Compensation Insurance/Social Security/ state and federal tax with holdings.

Note whenever I have managed projects and budgets I add 15% to projected costs. This is in an effort to cover unexpected events ie building delay due to weather that puts you behind on opening and therefore reducing anticipated revenues. Or used equipment may break and need to be replaced. Your list will vary but the above list is a basic start to making an expenditure list for your business.

12. Projected annual revenue - Include how you are coming up with these numbers.
13. Projected Return on Investment (ROI) for investors
14. Exit plan - This defines what happens if you go out of business and how your stakeholders who invested in the business are going get their money back ie sell equipment, etc.

This is not an all inclusive list for everything contained in your business plan but should give you a good idea of where to start. Once you have a good portion of the above information worked out and written down. Then you could see one of the below organizations to help you work out additional kinks and polish the business plan. Then you can seek out people to fund your business.

Groups who help small businesses

• US Chamber of Congress
• National Federation of Independent Business
• National Association of the Self-Employed
• Small Business Administration & state level small business development centers
• Senior Core of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E)

Funding Sources

A.) Banks- They do not generally want ownership but interest. Their repayment times can vary but range many times from 5-10 years.

• Sam's Club Small Business Loans • Bank loans

B.) Venture Capitol- Many times they want 15-30% ownership in the business plus 15-30% return on investment. Repayment times are varied but can be 5-10 years depending on the type of revenue being produced & amount of ownership they negotiate.

http://globalconnect.ucsd.edu/
https://angel.co/venture-capital

C.) Grants - These are funds you do not have to pay back but generally have to fill out a lot of paperwork and jump through the proper hoops to attain.

• Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)
• Federal Grants
• Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

By Allaire M Schneider

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Small Business Marketing Tips...How To Advertise On-Line

The reason for doing any kind of advertising is to get the message out to your community of actual and potential customers that they should take some kind of action which ultimately results in new customers and additional sales for you. This has always been the case for off-line advertising such as television and radio ads, newspaper ads and direct marketing. Experience has shown that the approaches to on-line advertising are no different to those traditionally used for off-line advertising. This article describes three such approaches.

Small business owners often start advertising online before they try any advertising offline but the reality is that a combination of both can be especially effective.

There are plenty of ways to advertise online and your main focus for all of them should be building your brand. Here are just three of the ways you can advertise online.

SEO Marketing: Having a website is an essential part of advertising online. It's your hub. It's where people can find you, and it's where people can flock to give you money. One of the best ways for people to find your website is to have it ranking in search engines such as Google and Bing. Proper SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation), as the term suggests, will enable search engines to find you easily when someone types in a search phrase that matches very closely with what your website offers visitors. If done right, it can give you an endless amount of free traffic to your business website.

PPC Advertising: SEO Marketing provides traffic that is often called organic because it does not cost you anything. However, if you want to get people onto your site quickly, especially while you're waiting for your SEO to improve (It takes time!), then Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is the fastest and easiest way to bring targeted traffic to your site. This includes things like AdWords, Facebook advertising and anywhere else where you pay a set amount of money for each visit that ends up on one of your web pages.

Email Marketing: You can create your own mailing list to keep in touch with all of your customers (and potential customers) by providing an opt-in box on your website. Email marketing is then a process by which you use a series of emails to your list with the aim of building a relationship with them, often by providing further free but valuable information. Research has shown that it can take a number of such contacts for you to build sufficient trust with those on your list that they then choose to buy from you. Email marketing is an effective and low-cost way to sell and should be a part of the on-line strategy for every business.

Would you like to know more about how to start and grow your own small business? Then get my free guide "The Only 7 Tools You Need To Boost The Profits Of Your Business In 2014 And Beyond" at http://www.startupsuccess.co.uk/blog

Steve Carter is founder of Startup Success and a serial entrepreneur who has built and grown his own businesses in a variety of industry sectors.

By Steve X Carter

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Choosing the Right Business Loan For Your Company

Operating a business takes money and just about everyone has heard the expression you have to spend money to make money, but where do you get the money if you aren't independently wealthy, or established? A business loan is the answer to most business needs. It doesn't matter what size a business is, almost every business owner at some point has to consider a loan. A business loan can help a business get started, expand once it's on its way and growing, or get a business through the tough spots that happen occasionally. Deciding on a business loan is a key step, but which loan is right for you and how do you decide between the many different various types?

Skip the Loan and Use Plastic

Some business owners opt for a slight variation on a business loan and choose to use credit cards to back their startup, expand on an existing business, or help their business through a tough stretch. The positive reason for using credit to fund your business is that it is often easier to get, or already existing in a personal credit card, but there are a couple of serious negatives to using this type of business financing. The first negative is that unless your existing credit line is unlimited there might not be enough funding on your credit cards. The second negative to using personal credit cards is that your personal and business cash flow is not separate. This can create havoc if you need to use your credit for important personal needs and it can have a similar effect on business funds if you suddenly have to tap into your credit for personal reasons. Lastly, the interest rate on credit cards is normally much higher than any of the various types of business loans.

A Bridge Between Credit Cards and Business Loans: Lines of Credit

A line of credit operates much the same as a credit card. You apply for a business loan line of credit and based on your qualifications you are approved for up to a certain amount. You are not charged on the loan until you actually use the money and are only charged for the amount you actually use. Another similarity between lines of credit and credit cards is the loan is often an unsecured loan meaning no assets are used to guarantee the loan such as homes, cars, the business itself. However, unlike a credit card business lines of credit have interest rates much closer to a traditional loan level.

On the downside those interest rates are usually variable like a personal credit card and go up or down over the period of the loan. Another downside to lines of credit is that like a credit card your payments will usually be only a little more than the interest rate each month.

This may seem like a plus at the start because the monthly payments are so low. The catch there is that lines of credit to not extend forever. There is almost always a set number of years for the loan amount to be available. At the end of that time (and sometimes within the last two years of the payback) money is not longer available. After that period, the payments are higher to make sure the money is completely paid back by the end of the loan.

If you have the discipline to make yourself pay more than the minimum every month in order to pay down the loan, this can be a good loan to get. It allows for times when money is tight. You can pay the minimum at those times without risking a default on your loan.

Traditional Types of Business Loans

Even if you do not have an extensive amount of credit, and if you don't think a line of credit is right for you, all is not lost. There are many more traditional styles of business loans to choose from:

- Working Capital Loans: These loans are what most people think of when they consider getting a business loan. They come in two types, secured and unsecured. Unsecured versions of working capital loans are usually only available to those business owners with stellar credit, a sound business plan, and an established business with a proven track record. Startups are usually too risky to be granted unsecured working capital business loans. Secured working capital loans are a little easier to get although the amount of collateral needed to obtain these loans is often based on the credit of the borrower. These loans make it possible for all types of business to conduct their affairs on a day-to-day basis with available cash. Loans are commonly secured with homes, and other valuable assets.

- Accounts Receivable Loans: These are short term types of financing available when you hit a tough spot and now you have money coming in at a particular time. Your business' records of accounts receivable act as a security for such loans. On the downside the interest rates of these short term loans are usually higher than a long term standard loan, and you can end up in a vicious circle of using your assets (receivables) before you get them and then not have money left before your next income period. This type of loan should only be considered in a select few types of cases of emergency such as the need to meet payroll, purchase inventory at a value, or other necessities.

- Business Only Loans: This type of loan is applied for using the capital and assets of the business alone and not any personal credit or credit history of the owner. It is only available to a business with a solid record of reliable income, the long-term prospect of fluid operation, and very strong business credit scores.

Other Function Specific Loans

There are times during business operation when you need a loan for a specific type of purchase such as to buy new or replace old equipment, the purchase of real estate for the business, or other dedicated needs there are loans designed to be separately available for just those times.

Getting The Loan

The best way to ensure success in getting your business loan is to be prepared. Enter your bank with a well-formulated business plan in hand and make sure your credit is up to par. If you know of any spots on your credit history, be prepared to explain them. Lenders are human too, and know that there are situations that are unavoidable but if you can prove your trouble is in the past and you are on more solid footing it will help a lot in getting the loan you desire. Letters of explanation to go along with your loan package help if there were situations such as illness, or caring for a sick loved one that caused problems in the past.

One of the things that stops most people from attempting to get a loan is fear of rejection. Knowing what to expect can alleviate that fear.

Corey Pierce is CEO of BusinessFinance.com. Online since 1995, BusinessFinance.com has become one of the internet's largest resources for business owners in search of business loans. Corey has developed a free online business funding system that matches a businesses owner's need for capital to the requirements of over 4,000 business lenders. Find out more about getting your business loan approved at: => http://www.businessfinance.com.

By J Corey Pierce

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Small Business Marketing Ideas...How to Get New Customers

The lifeblood of any business is revenue. As the saying goes "without a top line you have no bottom line." And where does revenue come from? Clearly it comes from the sales you make to customers and the price they are prepared to pay for those sales. At some point, your existing customers will stop buying from you - either because they no longer have a need for your product or service or they have chosen to buy elsewhere. So, the question you need to answer is how do you acquire new customers to replace those who have left you?

There are a few different ways that you can acquire customers. Here are just three.

Word of mouth: If you're working hard to keep your customers happy then word of mouth should happen naturally. When you provide a great product or service, people are going to recommend it to their friends. You can certainly encourage this, too, but it's important not to be too blatant about it.

Offering a discount coupon to anyone who refers a friend is a good way to offer extra value to your customers without being too blatant. For this approach to be successful, you need to make it part of your usual business practices. When you systematise it so that it happens naturally and frequently, it is called a customer referral programme.

Go to where your customers "hang out": It sounds a bit silly but the best place to find customers is to be where your potential customers are. I have seen people spinning their wheels for months trying to bring customers to them, when in reality you just need to go to your customers. So for example, are there trade shows in your niche? Are there conferences or events that you can attend? What about online communities where your customers might be? There are all good places to start.

Use your attendance at these gatherings to get the word out about your business - but a word of caution; do not "push" your products or services because if you are seen to be attending just to "sell" your business then you will very soon find yourself unwelcome. Instead, make contributions to these events by offering free advice or asking and answering attendee's questions. Provide value consistently and ask for nothing in return - you will then soon find that people come to you and your business naturally.

Leave no doubt in their minds: Get rid of any reason a potential customer might have for not giving you a try. Offer a guarantee, a more-than-fair refund policy and make sure your product or service will live up to the promises you make. When your customer has no reason not to give your product or service a try, you've made a sale! Eliminating any risk that a potential customer might see is essential in turning them from a prospect into a lifelong customer of yours.

Would you like to know more about how to start and grow your own small business? Then get my free guide "The Only 7 Tools You Need To Boost The Profits Of Your Business In 2014 And Beyond" at http://www.startupsuccess.co.uk/blog

Steve Carter is founder of Startup Success and a serial entrepreneur who has built and grown his own businesses in a variety of industry sectors.

By Steve X Carter

Saturday, April 12, 2014

3 Easy Ways To Finance Your Start Up Business

Banks are not lending to start up businesses. Start ups just have too much risk and as such banks now require that your business be in operations for at least 2 years before they even look at your loan application and they also require that your business be profitable over those two years before they even think about approving that application.

Not the best resource of capital for a new business.

On the other hand, new, small business lenders have been entering the market to take up the slack that these banks are leaving behind. Good news right?

Good news for businesses that have solid operating histories as most of these new players still require that the borrower be in business for at least one year and have annual revenues of at least $100,000 (most but not all - but still most). Again, not the best capital resource for start up companies.

Lastly, even the majority of the alternative loan products out there, those loans that are there for businesses who can't get financing anywhere else, still require some level of revenue (which backs the loan) as well as some time-in-business requirement - both things that start ups just do not have.

But, none of this has to hold you and your business down. In fact, we outline three of the most common ways that start ups have found to finance their companies outside those traditional and alternative business loan resources.

3 Ways To Finance Your Start Up Business

Remember that others have gone before you down this same path and they have not only survived but they have prospered as well. And, if they can do it - so can you!

1) Personal Loans: Now, I know you don't want to hear this, but the best way to finance your new, start up business is through personal loans - this could be your standard personal loans, personal lines of credit, credit cards and even home equity loans.

Most business owners - especially new entrepreneurs - don't want to use personal resources to finance their business. And, that is clearly understandable. However, very few banks or similar lenders will fund a start up business. And, if they did, they would still require that you sign a personal guarantee for that business loan - essentially making that loan a personal loan anyways (a personal loan that still has to go through the harder, more stringent business loan underwriting process).

Therefore, if your loan is going to be a personal loan anyways, then you might as well just start there. These loans are easier to qualify for, require less in terms of hassle and fees than business loans and can be approved and funded before you even get your business loan application fill out.

2) Micro Loans: Back in 2007, there was a study done that suggested that new, start up businesses were spending on average some $70,000 to start their companies. But, this is not the case today. Research today suggests that average start up costs are half that amount depending on the type of business being started.

So, if your business only needs a small amount of start up capital, then it is a perfect fit for a micro loan. Micro loans can provide up to $35,000 for start up businesses and up to $50,000 or more for existing businesses. And, most of these lenders require that you have already been turned down elsewhere - making them perfect for start up businesses struggling to get the capital they need to get their doors open.

And, let's say that you need more capital then that to get your business to the point that it can begin to sustain itself, a micro loan still can work for your company. These loans can be used either in conjunction with other financing options or used as a stepping stone to get your business that much closer to the starting line by either reducing your remaining capital needs or by moving your company up the ladder to that next rung and better positioning it for more traditional loan options.

The SBA has a list of micro lenders that they support and back or, if you can't find one of those in your area, know that many state, county and city governments also offer their own versions of micro loan programs.

3) Customers and Suppliers: Lastly, there are times when nothing seems to work in regards to getting outside money into your start up. However, in most cases, money (especially loan money) is only a middle man. You use this money to buy things - other products and services - that you can then use to move your business forward.

But, if you can't get that needed money, then you just have to find other ways to get those products and services that you would have bought had your business received that needed loan.

Many times, start up businesses use loan funds to purchase inventory, raw materials for manufacturing or even supplies for service companies. Well, there are ways - by working directly with those suppliers or vendors - to get all that your business needs.

There is nothing stopping your from working a trade credit deal with your suppliers. In these types of deals, you ask your suppliers to delay the payment you owe them until after your business has had time to get those products or services, add value to them and sell then off to your customers. Let's say that your retail business is expected to turn over its inventory every 30 days. Thus, 30 days after receiving that inventory, your business can convert it into cash - cash from its customers. It can then use that cash to pay off those suppliers or vendors or whatever. So, in this case, ask your suppliers for 30 days or more to pay for the products or goods you take today.

Know that these businesses - these suppliers and vendors - are also struggling in this economy and the potential of having another good customer on their books can get them to agree to almost all legitimate suggestions in this arena.

Or, you could even hit up your potential customers to cover some of your initial working capital needs.

Here, you could potentially ask your customers to pay something up front in order for your business to complete their job or order. Let's say that it costs your business $1,000 in expenses to complete a job. Then, your business collects, say, twice that amount ($2,000) from its customers when the job is done. But, to get the job started and completed, you could just ask your customers to pay 50% up front - enough for you to get that job done. This is essentially having your customers provide your business the working capital it needs to move forward (and do it without the interest and fees that banks and other lenders will charge).

While we outline and discuss these three very common ways that other start up businesses have financed their companies, these are by no means a complete list. The mantra to keep in mind is this; "Where there is a will, there is a way!" So, you just have to find YOUR way - by either using these examples or by simply using them to inspire your own.

Conclusion

Banks - usually the go to source for start up capital - are pulling back from the small business lending market - they are making fewer and fewer small business loans each and ever year.

But, that does not have to stop you from getting the start up loan your company needs today.

So, if at first it does not work, then try and try again - meaning that you can and should be able to see how other businesses have financed their start ups and either replicate what they did using those same resources or you can use those success stories to inspire yourself to find other ways that works best for you.

Business Money Today is your place to find the capital your company needs whether it is a start up business or growing company. It is our mission in life to get you the business loan you need regardless of who else has turned you down.

By Joseph H. Lizio

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Importance of Mobile Apps For Small Business Owners

Competition is fierce in the business world and it is particularly cutthroat for small businesses. There are approximately 23 million of them in the United States and these are competing for more than half of all sales in this country. Millions of people rely on these businesses for employment, with these companies providing 55 percent of all U.S. jobs since the 1970s. These entrepreneurs have a lot of pressure to succeed and they have many tools at their disposal to help them.

Mobile Apps for Small Businesses

Society is quickly becoming mobile, with more than 55 percent and 42 percent of American adults owning a smartphone or tablet computer, respectively, according to Pew Research Center. When surveyed by that organization in 2013, 63 percent of adult respondents said that they used their cell phones to go online. As download speeds improve, this statistic is expected to increase.

Smartphones, tablets, and other connected mobile devices are used for both personal and business reasons. Business uses include meeting coordination, Web-based conference calling, and the review or preparation of presentations. Mobile applications are used to increase productivity, expand business reach, and other purposes that make businesses more competitive.

Taking a Small Business Mobile

Small business entrepreneurs may shy away from mobile applications due to limited resources. In reality, it costs very little and requires minimal time and technical skills to incorporate mobile apps into business operations. Business owners that have not begun using these applications should get started to avoid falling behind the competition. Time is money and most small businesses need every penny that is available to them.

Applications designed for mobile devices serve a variety of purposes. They can do everything from processing customer orders and service calls via mobile forms to analyzing data to help the business identify strengths and weaknesses and make necessary improvements. There is an app for almost everything and thousands more in development, helping businesses to become leaner and meaner so they can capture additional market share.

Whether entrepreneurs are just getting their businesses off the ground or want to make current operations more competitive, they should explore mobile applications. Within a day, they can incorporate mobile features that allow them to gather, process, and analyze important information more easily and efficiently. Price should never be a factor because low-cost options abound. The sooner a small business goes mobile, the quicker it will outshine its competitors.

Is your small business in need of a mobile app development company that can provide you with the mobile exposure your online company needs to thrive in today's mobile-oriented consumer base? Mindsaw.com offers has multiple packages available for even the most budget-conscious business owner. To visit the Mindsaw website, click here.

By Gerald F. McKidman

Saturday, April 5, 2014

9 Signs It Might Be Time To Sell Your Business

Most business owners ignore these... until it's too late.

If you are like most business owners, you've occasionally found yourself wondering what your life would be like without the stress and hassles inherent to business ownership.

Perhaps you are facing personal challenges, such as divorce, a death in the family,or other issues that need your full attention.

Maybe you have health concerns that prevent you from engaging in your business as fully as you would like.

Or, it could just be that you are ready to try something new, go back to school, buy a home in the islands, or devote more time to a hobby or interest that you've had on the back burner for far too long.

Whatever reason you have for contemplating the sale of your successful business,you must understand that selling a business is a process for which you can fully prepare.

The first place to start in those preparations is to recognize some of the warning signs that let you know it is time to plan your exit.

  • Life changes are causing you to lose focus. It's difficult enough to run a successful business without the added stress of unforeseen life events. Situations such as divorce, illness of a family member, or the need to care for elderly parents can upset any work/life balance you think you have achieved. If you feel overwhelmed and depleted trying to focus on both the business and family matters, you might seriously consider selling.

  • You have a hard time getting up in the morning and going to your workplace. Everyone in business experiences episodic burnout. However, if you have a regular pattern of looking for any excuse not to go to the office, it might be time to sell. Forcing yourself on a daily basis to engage with your business can have a negative impact on your financial, physical, and mental well-being. Your attitude can wind up costing you lots of money, time, and effort.

  • You spend a lot more time thinking about retirement than you do about your company. There's no shame in doing this. Many of us look forward to a life without work. However, spending inordinate amounts of time watching the travel channels on television and visiting trip planning websites might point to your deep-down desire to get on with the rest of your life.

  • Your kids don't want, or are incapable of running, your business. Even if your children or other family members have worked with you in the business for years, this doesn't mean that they necessarily want to take it over when you leave. As badly as you may want the company to stay in the family, you can't make assumptions. Junior may love working with customers at your pool company during the summer, but he might very well have bigger plans for his life. Even more painful to contemplate is the fact that your chosen successors might not be capable of running the business, even if they want to do so.

  • Everything has grown stale and you've run out of ideas to keep things moving. Years ago, when you started the business, creative thoughts spewed out of your brain with the speed and intensity of a high pressure hose. You had tons of ideas about how to differentiate your business and make your brand unforgettable. These days though, you feel stuck and the idea well is bone dry. Without improvements and innovations, your company's growth will stagnate. If you can't re-ignite the idea machine, it could very well mean that it is time to sell.

  • You need to pour tons of money into updating your business. If you are in a highly competitive niche that is continuously evolving, you might find that you've fallen behind and need to do an extensive (and expensive makeover) in order to stay profitable. Even if you are currently making a nice income, it might not be in your best interest to spend money to stay in business, especially if you aren't having fun with it anymore.

  • You get an offer you'd be foolish to refuse. This happens more than you might think, even during a down economy. Someone out there has his or her eye on your business and they like what they see. Out of the blue, they make you an offer that is considerably more than current valuation. In most of these situations, it would be crazy not to sell.

  • Interest rates are lower than ever before. I am writing this article in 2014, a time when interest rates are historically low. There has never been a better time to leverage other peoples' money. For investors, it makes sense to borrow like crazy and snatch up any and every appreciable asset they can, especially companies which, if managed properly, will generate nice returns.

  • You have an opportunity to participate in another venture. Most business owners, even those who are only marginally successful, are constantly approached by purveyors of new "business opportunities." These can range from hyped-up multi-level marketing positions to Ponzi schemes to legitimate investment opportunities. I am sure you've probably been approached by more than your fair share of people pitching these kinds of things. However, once in a while a really good opportunity manages to come your way. Maybe it's a chance to partner with another successful entrepreneur in your local area or it's a start-up with amazing potential. When you find something like this and your gut feeling is that you want to be in on the action, then it might be time to sell your existing business and try something new.

It is never too soon to plan for the eventual sale of your business, especially if any of these warning signals sounds familiar to you.

As the starting point for planning your exit, seek out real business experts who, unlike the majority of business brokers, have actually bought and sold businesses.

Such experts will help you gain an understanding of the business selling cycle from A-Z and learn methods to avoid common pitfalls associated with the process.

I believe that the greatest legacy you can leave to your family is a company that you have converted into a money-creating machine, protected by design against erosive elements such as taxes and inflation that threaten to consume your wealth.

Consulting with experts enables you to do just that by showing you exactly how to design a custom plan that lets you to sell your business, get cash flow for life and pay no taxes.

Imagine how much peace of mind you would gain by incorporating this kind of proven business exit plan into your business- before you need it.

Successful business transitions don't come about by accident. They are the result of painstaking planning under the guidance of seasoned business professionals who know how to get the job accomplished with outcomes more favorable both to sellers and buyers.

Savvy business owners realize that the complexities of selling a business are many and that it makes sense to partner with people who have been in the trenches.

Delta Business Services offers a free initial consult to successful business owners who are looking for expert advice on the process. We can help you exit your business on your own terms, gracefully, from a position of strength. Call us today to arrange a phone consultation or contact us on our website:
Heath Frantzen
Delta Business Services
admin@deltabusinessservices.com
210-369-4161
http://deltabusinessservices.com/contact/

By Heath Frantzen

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Small Business Guide To Accepting Credit Cards

For most merchants, the ability to accept credit cards is critical to the success of their business. Many who are interested in accepting credit cards get stalled in the process by any number of predictable questions:

  • What are the qualifications?
  • How do you get a Merchant Account?
  • How much does it cost?

Not all that long ago, accepting credit cards was not only expensive, but also difficult to qualify. Fortunately, things have changed over the years, and now getting a Merchant Account for your business is easier than ever.

There are a couple of different options to consider, including a traditional Merchant Account, or a solution such as PayPal which almost all of us are familiar with.

Basic Qualifications

First of all, a good credit history will qualify you for lower processing rates, but "Bad Credit" Programs are also available. In general, this is what you'll you need to qualify:

  • US Resident
  • Checking Account
  • 18 Years or older

Traditional Merchant Accounts

The most common and cost effective method is to obtain a traditional Merchant Account through one of any number of Merchant Account Providers. These Providers act the middle-man between your business and the bank that is handling the transactions.

Monthly account fees are minimal, usually no more than $10 per month, plus transaction fees which usually include a percentage of the amount, plus a per transaction fee. Most Merchant Providers will ask you to sign a contract term up to 3 years.

Always check for any 'early termination' fees. You will also need some type of equipment to process the transactions. For any merchant who is serious about their business, this is the prudent way to proceed.

Non-Traditional Merchant Accounts, i.e. PayPal

For those just getting started, or perhaps merchants who plan to sell on eBay may choose a PayPal solution.

PayPal actually has a number of solutions available, although most people are only familiar with their basic service. Their basic service is a terrific way to accept credit cards, but really requires that the customer also have a PayPal account. Well, there's a reason you can't use your PayPal Account at a department store!

They do have other services, available for an additional fee such as their Virtual Terminal Product which lets you use your computer to accept credit cards. They also have another product i.e., "Web Payments Pro" which will let you accept credit cards on your web site. These additional services cost about $30 extra per month, at which point, you are probably better off choosing a traditional Merchant Account.

Rate Structures - Card Present, Volume

I always get frustrated whenever I see Credit Card Processing companies advertising rates I know aren't remotely possible. Can you imagine being sold on a rate, signing a three year contract, and then you find out that rate you wanted never applies to you? Here's some things you want to be aware of.

Card Present Transactions

Chances are that the rates you'll see advertised are based on "Card Present" transactions. These are cases where a credit card is swiped into a machine that is directly connected to the processing bank. This applies to you if your credit card machine plugs into a phone line, or if using a CDMA or GPRS wireless machine. If not, these rates probably won't apply to you.

Basically, the assumption is that if you physically swipe a card that has a direct connection to the processing bank, the chances for fraud are lower. If taking orders over the phone, on a website, or using a mobile phone application, you'll likely be paying more per transaction. The highest rates you are likely to see result from transactions done by those old manual credit card processing machines, i.e. "Knuckle Busters."

Again, be careful with advertised rates as they may not apply to you. You'll want to make sure they quote you rates based on the types of transactions are likely processing.

Volume of Charges & Average Charge Amounts

Some businesses such as Nail or Hair Salons often operate with low-frequency, and low-margin sales while a typical retail store might have a high frequency of charges, with a low profit margin. The type of business you are in directly affects your rate structure and the amount you'll paying throughout your contract.

The best advise I can give you here is simply to make sure that Credit Card Processing company you are talking to is familiar with your business-type. You'll want to get that "warm and fuzzy" feeling that the company you are talking to understands your business, and that the contract they give to sign you reflects that understanding."

How not to get Burned!

Actually, it's not hard to avoid getting ripped off if you understand the marketing and sales tactics used in the industry.

Rate Manipulation (Custom Bins)

The most common tactic is manipulation and abuse of the rate types, i.e. Qualified, Mid-Qualified, and Non-Qualified. Each of these categories is referred to as "Bins." In general, this is what you should expect:

Qualified (lowest rates):

  • Visa Charge & Debit Cards
  • MasterCard Charge & Debit Cards
  • Amercian Express

Mid-Qualified

  • Gift Cards, etc.

Non-Qualified (Highest Rates)

  • Rewards Cards
  • Business Charge Cards
  • Mileage Cards

So where's the abuse? Well, imagine if you signed a contract with very low "Qualified" rates, but then found out the processing company doesn't consider debit cards as "Qualified." What if they moved the debit cards into the "Non-Qualified" Category?" You got it, you'll be paying a fortune in fees, while locked into a long term contract.

Finally, consider visiting Credit Card Processing Practices at http://www.creditcardprocessingpractices.com or the buyer beware series at 1st National Processing at http://www.1nbcard.com for more specific information regarding industry practices.

Don't worry though; just a little homework goes a very long way and by doing so, you are likely to find a good fit for your company in no time at all.

Good Luck!

By Timothy Sweezey