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

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Running A Business Is Like Playing Tetris

Have you ever played Tetris? It's that game from the 1980s that requires you to strategically rotate, move, and drop geometric shapes that fall into a game board. These shapes build up on the board, and the only way to clear them out is by making horizontal rows of blocks without empty space.

It can be a pretty difficult game! In fact, the more you play, the more difficult the game becomes. The shapes drop faster and faster, and the possibilities of making lines disappear becomes nearly impossible. You may place a shape in the wrong place and- bam! Your game board is a mess. You're in a situation that seems hopeless.

Employers can find themselves with that same hopeless feeling when dealing with business paperwork that keeps piling up. The complications of having employees means keeping up with dozens of state and federal employment regulations and precise payroll management - just to name a few.

If you're not on top of these back office tasks, you 'll quickly find yourself overwhelmed. And unlike Tetris when the burden of the building blocks allow you to hit the restart button- there's no mercy given for late tax payments, inaccurate reporting - or a poor hiring decision.

When you own a company that specializes in a trade- painting, drywall, trucking, or anything else- you are prepared for the possible issues that come up with that trade. You can probably find a way to fix your machines, arrange schedules, or even clean up a job site if you have to. But you're probably completely unprepared for the requirements of tax filings and other issues that come with running your business. Things like new hire reporting, overtime, wage garnishments, and child support.

And once you get behind or make a mistake, those issues- just like the Tetris blocks- just keep dropping. Pretty soon, you're paying hefty penalties to the IRS and probably losing some sleep.
How would you like those blocks to stop dropping so you can focus on running your business?

Thankfully, a solution for employers comes in the form of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), also known as an Employee Leasing Company.

These providers allow you to outsource payroll administration, access great employee benefits and big discounts on workers' compensation insurance. When these HR tasks are on someone else's shoulders,you gain the freedom to work on sales, service and growth for your business. Productivity across all operations seems to soar.

Other benefits Employee Leasing Services provide:


  •  Workers' Compensation Claims Administration



  •  Family and Medical Leave Act Administration



  •  Risk Management



  •  Direct Deposit/ Check Printing



  •  Complete HR Administration, including safety and regulatory compliance



  •  401(k) Savings Plans



  •  Drug Testing


  • When you're ready to find out how HR outsourcing services can benefit your business, consider using a PEO broker to find your best solution. PEOs are all different, and offer a variety of benefits and services. Their pricing can differ dramatically. A broker will work with you to understand your company's specific needs, to access the perfect fit for you business.

    By Mike Burgelin

    Monday, November 12, 2018

    Top 3 Reasons Small Businesses Fail At Marketing

    I often speak to groups of small business owners and I keep hearing the same comment over and over again with many of them saying that marketers don't matter or marketing doesn't matter anymore.

    There are many reasons I've heard as to why marketing doesn't matter: "all my business comes by referral," "I never spent money on marketing and my business grew," "marketing is a waste of money," "I see no value in marketing," "marketing is all luck so why spend money on it," and so on.

    Oh, how they are so very wrong! Below are the top 3 reasons why:

    1. Their definition of marketing is wrong

    When business owners tell me that marketing doesn't matter, they usually have a totally different understanding of what marketing is than those who recognise how marketing contributes to business goals where it enables you to charge the most money you can for your services and products.

    Marketing is first about spending time building a solid foundation based on strategy before proposing a series of tactics aimed at lifting sales. Until the business finds a way to change the context of how their ideal customer views what they do, and then becomes become the obvious choice provider, they'll find that their marketing efforts never seem to build momentum or gain any return on investment.

    You must be able to enter the conversation taking place in the head of your customers. Or, to look at it in a different way, to be able to address the number one question on your customer's mind at exactly the right time.

    So, how do you do this? The conversation that is taking place in every prospective customer's mind revolves around two major points. There is a problem they have, and that they don't want... and there is a result that they want, and they don't have.

    Those who often misunderstand marketing believe that it is only about advertising campaigns, brochures, flyers, website, email marketing, SEO, tradeshows, social media, copy, etc. These are the tactics - the way you implement your marketing. I'd argue that marketing is essentially the core of business strategy because it is about understanding the current customer, tapping into their fears, their goals and their aspirations and then creating products and services that the ideal customer is willing to buy from a brand they now they know, like and trust.

    2. They believe either they or their co-worker can do it

    Sometimes in the "do it all yourself" world of small business (or even big business when it comes to it), it's difficult to identify the areas that require outside help. A business may be able to set up their newsletter, add plugins to WordPress, write a Facebook or LinkedIn post, and clumsily create header graphics, but you need somebody who is trained, practiced, and skilled at looking strategically and holistically at the marketplace, understanding the customer, and then creating unique opportunities based on this understanding.

    Just think about it for a minute; just because you have a calculator and excel does that mean you are an accountant? If you have a ruler, pencil and have watched some episodes of Grand Designs - does that make you an architect? If you post regularly to your friends on Facebook and Instagram - does that mean you are a social media expert?

    So why do small businesses believe that by buying a Mac and some software they will become a designer, marketer and communications expert?

    It needs to be led by a strategic marketer who can then develop an integrated marketing approach. Can you or your co-worker do this? In some cases, you can. But those who can are most likely to either come from marketing or consulting backgrounds where they have transferable skills and experience defining AND delivering against a growth strategy.

    If you are a small business, you need somebody who will have a very solid, process, streamlined, consistent, repeatable approach. First, they will research and learn about your company in great depth, the dynamics of the marketplace and identify shifts, trends, and changes. From there, the strategic marketer will be able to present the different elements of your marketing plan in logical order of how you should construct them, update them, or revise them; and identify the key areas you should be focusing on - be it generating leads, converting leads, increasing transactions right down to changing prices.

    3. They hire the wrong marketing help

    There is a huge misunderstanding around marketing strategy, marketing tactics, and marketing execution.

    There is a difference between being strategically capable, creatively capable and executionally capable.

    Small business owners don't hire a strategic marketing coach/firm to develop creative graphics and headers; nor should you hire an advertising/graphic design agency to handle marketing strategy. A small business doesn't need to hire a consultant or a firm who is a strong marketing executor when their biggest need is a strategy for sustainable growth. You may get more attention, but not the best results.

    I hope this has helped you, but if you need some help to get effective marketing into your business, you can schedule a FREE marketing strategy meeting with me to ramp up your results and start attracting all the clients and customers you want in 2018 or take a look at my website http://www.vervebusinessacademy.com

    By Rachel Foord

    Wednesday, November 7, 2018

    6 Simple Rules To Getting The Competitive Spirit On The Right Track

    Being a formidable player in the corporate world is no easy task. You have to be ready to tackle competition all the time. Here are six simple rules to beat them at their own game.

     *  Market research comes in handy to get to know what people want; it also helps to understand what people expect from the competition. Understanding this in totality helps down the line as you build a brand from the get. 

    *  Up the ante in the value stakes of the product or service that is on offer. This is bound to reap huge rewards for an upcoming and even an established brand. The target and client base will notice these tweaks and be appreciative as you laugh your way to the bank. You also gain an edge over the competition.

    *  Establish a rapport with the customer base and keep in touch with them throughout the journey. The idea here is not to spam them with constant drivel, but to keep them abreast of new developments, discounts, and encourage them to opt for early bird offers. It helps a great deal as you beat them through simple marketing methods.

    *  An exciting promo never lost out in the campaign stakes. Use the online medium to generate hype as you build up a tempo with everyone interested in knowing what is trending and doing the rounds. Keep on with the momentum and once this gets to be a talking point, launch the product/service. The idea is to formulate the right time and then go for the kill, so to speak. 

    *  Quality is another most intelligent way to get ahead in the game. Testing the service or product needs to be the foremost objective before the launch. It establishes a credible angle and does not allow competition to sneak in with maneuvers and gain because of losing focus.

    *  Never give up or give into negative chatter is one of the best pointers of all time. Most of us fight shy of getting ahead in the game primarily because of robust players in the market. However, that does not mean that you cannot do your bit and edge ahead in the game of competitive business sport.

    Simply Put....

    Being competitive is an exhausting experience but something that is expected to be a part of the business world. To get ahead in the game of barter entails that you are ten steps ahead of the competition so that profits are on the charts, not losses.

    Sometimes you just have to give it your all or give up entirely when you want to make a pitch. Competition can get tricky, but that does not mean that it is the end of the road. Keeping on at it, will win you brownie points down the line.

    By Yasmin Andrea Imam

    Thursday, November 1, 2018

    Make Up Your Own Rules In Biz

    There are many tried and true strategies and systems out there for growing a wildly successful business. However, use them only as guidelines, and make up your own rules to the business game.

    Here are the top 4 reasons why you've got to ditch your preconceived notions of how to attract loads of clients and do it YOUR way.

    1.  You know what's best for you, not somebody else.

    When you're calm and tuned in to your heart, you're definitely your own best authority. Now, if you're emotionally sideways or in the thick of a heavy issue, don't make any earth-shattering decisions. When you come back to a neutral place, you'll see more clearly and take actions that will serve you. You may listen to all the outside advice you'd like, but in the end, you have to make the choice that feels best to you.
    1. Things go quicker, easier, and cost less.
    When you look at the standard process for creating something in your business, you may accept it for the way it is. But what's possible when you create a new standard? If Eva Gregory and I had listened to Chicken Soup for the Soul's process for book publishing, we would've taken forever to write our book for them.

    They said it would take about 1.5 years. We said we knew it could take less. When we finally got the green light, the process took less than a year. The actual writing took three months. Easier than I'd ever imagined!

    Another example is the purchase of my first house. I had no realtor and neither did the seller, who was out of communication in rehab. I had no prior experience in real estate. I took the sale on as a learning seminar.

    When I finally went in to sign the escrow papers, they couldn't believe how I'd completed the process by myself. (I found myself some loopholes.) Lots of people helped me, but my newbie spirit looked at everything as possible rather than as an obstacle.
    1. Be a pioneer! If your mind can think it, you can create it.
    If people settled for what was in front of them, nothing new would ever be created or invented. Sure, other people might tell you that you're nuts when you think outside of their box. So what! They'll try to convince you that your idea or way of thinking is impossible or illogical. If you have the vision, I promise it's a worthy cause to pursue.

    Do you see something that can be improved upon in the world? Take action! Sure, the big dogs might already have a team working on it. But as history will show, newbies can and do prevail. Google took on Yahoo and MSN with some pretty sweet results.
    1. Current rules and choices may not fit you. Create a new choice for yourself.
    When options a, b, and c don't feel good, you've got to create choice d and maybe an e, f, and g. The best perspectives happen when you start looking for new combinations of the available elements.

    Let's say you want to take some friends out for a special dinner. The two restaurants you had in mind are both booked solid for that evening. Don't settle for something less.

    If you knew you were going to get the ideal food, service, and atmosphere at those two restaurants, how would you handle this situation? You might get an idea to call back the restaurants with some wild pitch for them to let you in. If you were grounded, you possibly might get a yes. You also might talk to some friends to get new ideas. But you definitely wouldn't let this minor setback throw you off.

    The rules in the U.S. used to make it difficult to travel in Cuba. (Maybe they still do!) Do people find ways of doing it? Yes! And many of them are legal! You can always find a choice that meets all of your criteria. Stay in possibility and you will find your perfect solution.
    When you're truly following your heart, you'll always make decisions that are in your highest good, as well as the good of others.

    By Jeanna Gabellini

    Jeanna Gabellini is a Master Business Coach who assists high achieving entrepreneurs, corporate leaders & their teams to leverage fun, systems and intentionality for high-octane results. An entrepreneur for 25 years she has a treasure trove of kick-butt tools to give you peace & profits. Get your complimentary audio "Transforming from Chaotic Entrepreneur to Conscious Leader" here: https://masterpeacecoaching.com/resources/free-cd2

    Tuesday, October 30, 2018

    Business Sale To A Competitor - Why They Always Pay Less

    The unfortunate truth... A competitor never pays more for your business.

    Although there are legitimate reasons for a competitor to have significant interest in your business and recognize inherent value, history has taught us that competitor acquisitions of small businesses yield the lowest transaction value based upon price, structure and terms.

    While you have built a turn key business that has considerable value, a competitor has most of these organizational/operational elements in place and will view the overall value differently.

    Many competitors approach these acquisitions as the purchase of a customer list, picking up a few good employees, add an asset or two, and maybe establish a key relationship or territory with a vendor. Some are simply looking to eliminate a competitor. The bottom line is that they do not need everything you are selling like someone new to the industry. The worth of this turn key operation is not valued the same from a competitor versus an outsider.

    Does a competitor need, want, or place significant value on the following assets?

    Tangible:

    • Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E)
    • Vehicles
    • Inventory
    • Real Estate

    Intangible:

    • Customer lists
    • Client Contracts
    • Systems, processes, and intellectual property
    • Brand name, website domain, phone numbers
    • Reputation
    • Online Reviews
    • Vendor supply agreements, licensing agreements, exclusive territories
    • Proprietary computer software
    • Trained and in-place work force
    • Goodwill

    Outside buyers will require all of these assets to continue business operations and take the company to the next level. Competitors will not need all of these assets and those assets they require are valued lower, especially the intangible assets.

    Therefore, the recommendation to a business owner who is considering a sale and might be entertaining a discussion with a competitor, is to develop a list of their objectives and goals when selling the business. Even at the most basic level "I want to sell my business for the highest price".

    Does this mean the highest price with 100% seller financing/earnout or is the goal to receive the lion's share of proceeds at closing? The goals and objectives can vary considerably amongst business owners pursuing a business sale. Experienced M&A Advisors and Business Brokers are adept at qualifying a buyer who is most aligned with these goals and the assets being sold.

    Several examples of goals/objectives include:

    • Obtain the highest price with a portion of seller financing contingent payments
    • Obtain the highest price with a portion of contingent payments
    • Maximize cash at closing
    • Seek an exit with no continued involvement with the business
    • Remain with the business in some capacity with less responsibility and time commitment

    Find buyer who:

    • Has adequate funds to close
    • Has industry or related experience
    • Is local or willing to relocate to be local to the business
    • Acquires or leases the real estate as part of the business sale
    • Does not cherry pick inventory, vehicles, or FF&E
    • Has necessary business licenses or requires only minimal training and transition assistance
    • Expects to retain the current roster of employees

    Once the toothpaste is out of the tube...

    Competitors and complementary industry businesses know one another. They see each other at conferences, industry association meetings, and vendor reward trips. It is not unusual for overtures to be made about acquiring a competitor's business. Most often, these discussions start out innocently; a desire to purchase is made with numbers floated that sound great to the prospective seller and an NDA is signed. Discussions are held, and business financials are provided to the competitor. A subsequent meeting is scheduled, and a non-binding Letter of Intent is received. Further due diligence is pursued, significant confidential information is provided and an offer, far different from the one originally discussed, is made. The deal falls apart. The result is no deal and unfortunately, a competitor now has highly sensitive information on your business. This is the worst situation possible and happens far too often.

    Selling larger businesses to a competitor is not that unusual and the focus of this article is not to say that these sales should never be done; but merely to highlight the value differences that should be expected and the risks involved in divulging sensitive company information when engaging a competitor.

    If it is appropriate for a business to be sold to a competitor, having a professional intermediary is critical. Following an established process, providing information in stages, protecting sensitive information, qualifying sincere interests or ferreting out a fishing expedition are some of the key benefits that an intermediary provides.

    Additionally, it is the intermediary's ability to discreetly market the business to many prospective buyers versus negotiating with only one candidate that enables the transaction value to be maximized. Each confidential marketing program is customized per engagement but ultimately these programs are focused on creating multiple offers whereby the best price, terms, and conditions can be achieved for the seller.


    Michael Fekkes has over a decade of experience in small business sales and acquisitions. Michael is a Mergers & Acquisitions Master Intermediary (M&AMI), Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA), Fellow of the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA), Chairman of the IBBA and M&A Source Communication Committee, as well as a prior business owner. He can be reached at 910.691.2202 or mfekkes@enlign.com. All conversations are strictly confidential.

    Friday, October 26, 2018

    Small Business Owners....The Building Blocks To Increase Profits

    The foundational building blocks of every business are Processes (procedures/policy), People (employees), Customers and Resources (ideas/capital). Leaders, who strengthen and understand each of these blocks, build their business. Those who weaken or neglect these building blocks, find themselves with declines in both their top and bottom lines.

    Believe it or not, organizations can sometimes forget that creating and delivering top quality products and providing excellent services is their main objective. Organizations keep ineffective processes in effect because it is comfortable, safe and familiar. Leaders must regularly set aside time to define and redefine their processes, track defects and poor service, and make improvements to solidify these (5) major building blocks.

    Owner Mindset

    You've got to make the mental shift from running your businesses as a self-employed job/good employee to building a business you can one day sell, scale or own passively to fund your retirement.
    This means consistently reminding yourself that you are just a temporary producer, and that your business must eventually replace you from its day to day operations.

    Be Clear in Your Mission

    There's a reason you started a business and left your job (or didn't try to find a new one). Why are you doing this? Keep in mind that your personal mission and your company's mission can be different, as long as they're aligned and can co-exist. You did the mission statement in the business plan and it's on the bookshelf collecting dust.

    Network and Get a Mentor

    Get a business advisor or coach. It doesn't have to be someone professional, just someone who can share experiences to bounce ideas off of and tell you when you are losing teams, money and the mindset.

    Get your Business off the Road to Nowhere

    When the money gets tight and the momentum fades, you are left with day to day work of the business, this is when you learn how to make your business run. It can become grinding because sales are slow and you are learning how the business actually operates, to acquire customers, market products, understand how changing processes and products affect your financials, and every idea you have does not automatically work as you envision it to increase profits.

    At some point while running a business, your likely to experience that burned out or uninspired feeling. Work-life balance is important; there is a truth, in working hard and playing hard to unwind. Reading a daily devotion and taking a daily 30 minute walk can assist in relaxing the mind, etc.

    Customer

    Customer acquisition is expensive in order to acquire new customers, companies must effectively target, market to and convince customers to try their product or service.

    Many business owners do not take time to figure out who is their target customer. What are their target customers' likes, dislikes, needs and wants? Which types of media do they consume? What is the cheapest way to reach them? How much is the target customer willing to pay for their products or services? Where and how should we sell our products?

    Remember, it is cheaper to keep a customer than it is to acquire new ones.

    Master the Art of Engagement

    Being engaging is important in every part of your business, whether its communicating through email marketing, social media, blogs, videos and other commercial formats

    Grab social Media Attention

    Social media marketing plan should include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the company website to communicate with your customer. Use the same theme, pictures (banner pages) and similar products.

    Understand importance of Business Logos

    It is the first thing potential customers will notice about your brand, make sure it is presentable, professional and polished. Make sure the Logo connects with your customer needs and wants.

    Create an experience for your Brand

    Create fun and informative environment to solve your customer problems

    The Right Clients are more Important than the Most clients

    Most business strategy is get the cash in the door by any means necessary to get most clients in the door. Problem is you achieve all of this at the expense of quality, profit and sanity. The right clients will allow your company to do better work, build a better reputation, generate more profits and retain better employees.

    Focus on Your Goal, Objectives, Theme but most of all Profitability

    Don't try to be all things to all customers. Specialize in solving your 'target audience' problems and have fun doing it. Even the largest companies do their best when they focus on keeping the 'main thing the main thing'.

    Operations

    Processes

    Are the actions and applications that executives and teams put in place to achieve desired results.
    Leaders need to take a step back to review their processes-individually or in a cross-functional groupings--- to eliminate inefficiencies and optimize performance, annually or as the market changes.

    Systems

    Systems are the reliable processes and procedures that empower your business to consistently produce an excellent result for your client and profitability for you.

    Documenting automated processes can increase your company's efficiency and reduce costly mistakes; the checklists your employees follow to ensure that all orders are shipped correctly; the orientation process for all new clients when you begin working together; and the standardized contracts you use with all your new hires and vendors.

    Controls/Standards

    Controls are the processes, procedures and safeguards that protect your company form uninformed or inappropriate decisions or actions by any team member. They also are your business's way of making sure that key work is getting done on time and the right way.

    There are (4) main types of business controls:


  •  Checklists/Visual Business Process Controls


  •  Scorecards/ Business Performance Measurements Metrics by Function (KPI)


  •  Embedded Internal Quality Controls--- product/process quality checks


  •  Policy and Procedures--- written/measured


  • Scalable SolutionsSystems(using excel and quickbooks), Processes and Procedures that worked for a $1million dollar a year business, are not sufficient for $10 million dollar business or a $25 million dollar business.

    Scaling your business requires building it in such a way that your business model and systems can be rolled out and replicated on a much bigger playing field, based on increased product ordered/processed sales volume.

    Example, choosing a database solution or a 3rd party fulfillment should be based on actual growth rates, not potential or forecasted projected sales.

    Financials

    Cash flow and Financial Statements are your 'life line'.
    • Learn how you are making and losing money. Understand profit and loss statements and what processes and procedures link to improving the 'profits' of your business.
    Resources

    The company's financial wherewithal additionally, the measurement tools necessary to manage and track finances and assets. Do you have the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to use those tools to increase your profits?

    Small and mid-size businesses must master the ability to manage their working capital and cash flow. Every company has access to profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Management is either using accounting software or someone is preparing the reports for management.

    How well does senior management understand the company's financials and it correlation to their strategy? Do these managers understand which parts of the company need investment, where cuts can be made on why?

    Managers must take the time to learn the relationships and interdependencies between their tools and the reports they use to maximize their resources.

    Teamwork makes DreamWorks

    You can't do it by yourself. It is critical to ensure that your business doesn't rely on the presence of any one individual.

    Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, needed a great team to help them execute, deliver and do everything behind the scenes to deliver their vision to customers.

    Surround yourself with the best people you can find. Hire people who are smarter than you, then step back and let them do their jobs. Remember championships are won by teams, not athletes. Employees are hired either to increase revenue or to decrease expenses in order to improve profits, no other reason.

    People

    People are not your greatest asset; the right people are. The wrong people are your greatest catastrophe. Mediocre people are your greatest drain on resources.

    Leaders must strive to create learning organizations where the organization is always pushing to improve. A organization where employees feel valued and are contributing according to their abilities.

    Effective management will create an organization where personal growth is expected and rewarded and employees are both challenged and satisfied.

    Employees who are motivated by the company's vision and mission will produce profitability, but frustrated employees will lead to losses.

    By Vinson Primas

    Vinson Primas is a certified business and life coach. He writes small business blogs to help owners make money. http://www.nomopofolks.com/small-business.html

    Monday, October 22, 2018

    5 Skills To Take You From Technician To Entrepreneur

    Many small business owners are very good at what they do - from HVAC and automotive repairs to graphic design, IT or accounting services. They honed these skills while working for others - and at some point decided "I can do this on my own, make more money and have more time".And yes, they can. But it takes more than technical know-how to build and sustain a successful business.
    As a business owner, you need to wear a lot of hats. If you truly want to build a better business - one that works for you, here are some skills you need to develop.

    Time Mastery

    It's no surprise that the biggest complaint of business owners is a lack of time. While organizing can certainly help, the best way to get back time comes from improvements in planning.

    Planning and goal setting helps you prioritize and stay on track - a key to time management. Without it, everything looks important and little gets accomplished. Planning starts with a clear vision for your business. Next, incorporate your goals - what do you want to accomplish? Then, identify what you need to do to reach those goals. Whether you call them strategies, tactics or tasks, these are the actions you must take to accomplish your goals. Finally, schedule time to work on the tasks you identified.

    Remember, planning is a cycle and ongoing process. Monitor your results and make adjustments as needed. Make planning and goal-setting a priority. Be the visionary and strategist your company needs.

    People Mastery

    You can't do it all yourself. Whether you hire employees, sub-contract work or outsource projects and routine tasks, your small business needs others to grow and prosper. Most owners recognize the importance of getting quality people to support them and their business. But too often, they ignore the need to develop and manage them - especially when outsourcing or subcontracting work. Clear expectations, shared goals, ongoing feedback and open communication lead to high-performance teams - and a willingness to delegate to others! Be the manager and leader your company needs.

    Financial Mastery

    You don't need to be a numbers guru to be successful. Whether you love them or hate them, the numbers are your friend - and a great tool for making sound business decisions and prioritizing where you put your resources. While your accountant and bookkeeper can help with planning and day-to-do record keeping, YOU own your financial performance.

    Take the time the learn and understand the key financial drivers that impact profitability, cash flow, and your personal income. While key drivers may vary by business, some common ones include sales, margins, profit, accounts receivables/payables, labor, inventory management and operating efficiency.

    Look at your financial reports monthly. Don't be afraid to ask questions. A good accountant will gladly explain -- it's how we learn. If something doesn't look or feel right, it probably isn't. Don't ignore the red flags. Ask questions or ask for help. Work with your accountant and be the chief financial officer your company needs.

    Revenue Mastery

    When you worked for someone else, keeping sales flowing was often someone else's job. But as the owner, getting customers and repeat business is now up to you. Regardless of whether you do it yourself or get others to do it for you, generating sales is the lifeblood of your business. Have methods in place to consistently generate new sales (not just leads) and get current customers to spend more and purchase again and again. There are a lot of ways to grow and sustain revenue. You don't need hundreds, but you do need three things:

    First, a few proven methods to generate new leads. Second, a reliable sales system to convert those leads to paying customers. Finally, a dependable method to stay connected with current customers to generate repeat business. The key to success in marketing and sales is consistency. Avoid the stopping and starting or when time allows approach.Be the chief marketing and sales officer your company needs.

    Systems Mastery 

    A business is a combination of people and systems that evolve over time as the business grows. When you are doing all the work, the quality and service are probably to your standards - even if they are inefficient. But as you bring in others to save time and money, those same standards may decline - unless you have written systems and procedures in place to guide them.

    Systems aren't complicated, but they are the key to efficiency, effectiveness, and repeatability in all areas of your business. They make hiring, training, and outsourcing easier. They make your business more efficient which translates into more profit. And most of all, they ensure you consistently deliver what you promise to customers, employees, suppliers, and others who depend on YOU.

    Owning your own business can be rewarding. With a commitment to learning and developing new skills, your business can provide you with the income, lifestyle, and freedom you want. As Ben Franklin said, "An investment in learning pays the best dividends".

    By Joan Nowak

    As a business improvement expert, business coach and consultant, Joan Nowak has been helping small business owners turn ideas into profits for more than a decade. Her whole business approach drives improvements in key areas: revenue, operational performance, team development, customer satisfaction, and profitability. Her practical, innovative methods empower clients to create a business that works for them - one that delivers the income and lifestyle they want. To learn more or schedule a complimentary session, visit http://HybridBizAdvisors.com

    Wednesday, October 17, 2018

    Social Media For Small Businesses

    Social media has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Businesses of all size and shapes have started making the most of available mediums. Today we will try to anatomize tips on social media for small businesses. There are a plethora of small businesses eyeing social medium to promote their business/services. However, majorly these small businesses are failing or not being able to make optimum use of social media for their business growth. There are many theories and strategies on how to effectively use social media for established brands, but the topic social media for small businesses is seldom addressed. According to Digital state of eMarketing India 2017 Octane Research:

    60% small businesses promote their business on social media. 50% focus on SEO and 35% use multichannel marketing funnel.

    70% small businesses consider content strategy as their primary marketing activity.

    52% business owners are using social media as to efficiently address customer engagement.

    More than 20% of business owners said that they are making 50% plus profit using social media.
    The primary reasons for the low turnout are uncertainty on an application of social media, calculating return on investment and persuade employees/stakeholders to clinch social media. Hence it is important to address the elephant in the room and analyze how beneficial is Social media for small businesses.

    Social media for small businesses is a great way for emerging businesses to generate lead and build a reputation. If regularly updated, social media can deliver more results as compared to traditional mediums. Social media for small businesses gives brands an edge of control over the content that they want to post. Also, since social media is a two-way dialogue process, it helps businesses to instantly identify what is benefitting them. Social media for small businesses also helps generate Word of Mouth, which is one of the best tools for emerging businesses.

    Social Media for small businesses | 10 Tips to effectively use Social Media

    Define your Target Audience

    The first and foremost important part that small businesses should focus on is to define their target audience. This helps small businesses to device their social media strategy accordingly. The target audience should be defined basis age group, sex, location, users' online behaviors, their likes, interests, and preferences. For niche products, business owners can even target users based on their birthdays, anniversaries and important milestone. Audience targeting plays a very crucial role in the outcome of the results. For e.g.: a local shop selling footwear should not target users with interest in entertainment. The shop definitely won't get the desired results.

    Set achievable goals

    Overnight success is a myth. Small businesses must understand this basic fact. Generally, when a new business starts selling on social media, there is palpable excitement is achieving more than set targeted sales. Businesses need to set goals which are upwards and forward. To achieve enormous goals, small businesses start updating social feed with multiple updates in shorter duration. This leads to user's disinterest in the product/service. The set goals should be in sync with brand's core capabilities and expertise. For e.g.: if a business is into selling shoes, they shouldn't set a goal to repair maximum shoes in their area.

    Choose the right medium

    By now everyone knows, social media is for free. Even paid campaigns can be conducted at a relatively low cost as compared to traditional mediums. It is in this scenario, that we often see small businesses jumping the bandwagon and creating profiles on all the available platforms. Creating social profile doesn't hamper brand image, but aggressively promoting a brand on wrong platforms can lead to brand losing its potential customers. Hence it is advisable for SME's to first identify the right platform through which they can maximize their business. For e.g.: If a shoe selling brand tries to aggressively sell on LinkedIn, they won't get a plausible response as compared to promotions on Facebook/Instagram.

    Promote your core product/services

    Since each and every business is riding in the social media wave, it is important for a them to promote their core product/services. Nowadays, we see a lot of businesses promoting their services as well as promoting peripheral products/services, which revolves around their core product/services. Majority of the times, this SME's doesn't have capabilities to fulfill a requirement, which can lead to a bad word of mouth for their business on social media platforms. Let us go back to our example; if a shoe seller is trying to aggressively promote socks instead of shoes, it is not going to benefit the business in the long run.

    Create quality content

    Now that we have covered the topics of identifying the target audience, setting achievable goals, choosing the right medium and promoting the right product/services let us now take a look at the type of content a business should promote on their social pages. A business should always focus on creating good quality content rather than not-good quantity content. Even if the business updates their page once in a day as long as it is relevant to their business, advocates about its core products send across a clear message it is considered as a good quality content. Antagonistically, if a business posts multiple updates which aren't even relevant to the business's products and services leads to users considering the business as fake/spam. Also, new businesses should try and refrain from promoting other businesses on their social platforms initially.

    Create a content calendar

    Making a small business successful on social platforms is no small task. It takes a lot of efforts for the businesses to keep up their conversion ratio. One such effort is to create a content calendar. Small businesses must anticipate important events and create a content calendar accordingly. Ideally, a content calendar must be planned a month in advance but an even weekly content calendar is highly recommended. This helps businesses to avoid any last minute hassles, strategize much more effectively and it also helps in creating curiosity amongst its loyal fans/customers.

    Test and re-test

    Social media is highly unpredictable. The content a business posts today, might not work for tomorrow. Hence, small businesses must always test their content before publishing it on their pages. Testing content also applies to the platform a small business chooses to promote. Small business owners must always don the consumer's hat before posting about any product feature, updates, schemes or offers. A consumer's perspective is the key when testing the content that has to be uploaded.

    Look for inspiration

    Small businesses must always look for inspiration from a competitor who is successful in the same category. Copy pasting competitors idea or content is not the answer. Small businesses must look for the kind of content its competitors are putting up and derive their own strategies subsequently. Inspiring content/stories always make a business to strive to create their own content that is appreciated by one and all. It helps in increasing brand consideration, brand visibility thereby increasing conversions for the business.

    Calculate ROI

    Even a small promotional budget is not justifiable if there is no mechanism to calculate its return on investment. It is more important in case of small businesses. It is very important for a small business to keep a tab on the budgets allocated to any promotions and the subsequent ROI related to it. If a certain promotion is not doing well or the business is not getting desired results, the brand custodian can always look for other platforms to generate quality conversions.

    Analyze and Re-strategize

    There can be umpteen instances where a particular campaign/promotion might not work for a business. That doesn't mean that the promotion is wrong or the product/service is not good. Doing an analysis of the campaign is as important as setting the objective. This helps the business to formulate their upcoming strategies in more effective ways. At the end of every campaign, brands must note down the learning's from that campaign and identify if the content/idea was appreciated by their fans or not. This helps businesses to skip the non-performing updates from future communications.

    Final Thoughts

    Social media for small businesses is definitely beneficial and fruitful. If followed correctly, small businesses can benefit tremendously from the power of social media promotions.
    For More details you can visit: http://www.infunotion.com/blog

    By Shashank Dhadiwal


    Thursday, October 11, 2018

    Payroll Services Ease The Process Of Small Businesses

    Small, emerging businesses are too busy developing core strategies and managing workflow and client relations that they often make a hash of many important aspects which demand their attention. One such aspect is payroll.

    Payroll is one of the fundamental parts of an organization. A number of small businesses that are in their infancy overlook the significance of setting up a proper payroll department, proclaiming that their clients are more important for them. This approach often causes delays in salary distribution.
    Because of that, most of their reliable resources step back. Now the question that arises here is, would you be able to meet your clients' needs if your dependable people leave you? What would be you response to your client whose project is halted in the middle of nowhere?

    Not even large organizations want to lose their hardworking people. A small business cannot really afford this loss. To keep your best employees with you, you need to ensure that their salaries are distributed on time.

    Key Responsibilities of Payroll Department


  •  Timekeeping


  •  Recordkeeping


  •  Processing paychecks on time


  •  Accounting


  •  Work with HR Department hand in hand


  • Handling all these responsibilities, your payroll department or partner makes an effort to build and maintain a positive image of your newly-established business in the market.Not every small business has funds required for instituting an in-house payroll department. If you are an emergent enterprise and this seems like your case, maybe you can hire a small business payroll service. These service providers can expertly handle your organization's accounting, financial affairs, employee management, and salary distribution.

    Outsourcing payroll processing for small businesses is in their interest. Here's how:-

    Convenience: The load of attendance, timekeeping, preparing checks, and transferring salary into your employees' bank account is on your payroll partner.

    Rightfulness: Accuracy in salary calculation and during transactions affects when you take charge of salary distribution by yourself while performing other core activities for your business. A professional payroll partner can alleviate the chances of all such blunders and blemishes.

    Compliance: It is pretty common for an entrepreneur like you to be unaware of payroll- and salary-related compliances mandated by the state and federal governments. If your service provider is the best small business payroll company in your area, then you can be sure that your business adheres to the rules and regulations.

    To sum up, some of the other advantages that you get with a dependable payroll service provider are: tax expertise, accountability, and financial auditing for your business.

    By Shailendra Verma

    Tuesday, October 9, 2018

    Why Commercial General Liability Insurance Has Been So Popular Till Now

    Why Commercial General Liability Insurance Has Been So Popular Till Now

    What is Commercial General Liability Insurance?

    The General Liability Insurance protects businesses and their owners from "general" claims which involve bodily damages, property damages, and lawsuits relating to both of these. It's the first policy usually purchased by small business owners because it's often needed when signing client's contracts and commercial leases. The General Insurance covers all expenses related to clients and customer's injuries which happens within the vicinity of your property, damages you caused to the properties of others, and other advertising mistakes. It simply covers all the most common lawsuits which arise from daily business activities such as interacting with customers, renting of property, and relating with clients.

    What does General Liability Insurance cover?

    This form of Business Insurance takes care of third-party lawsuits. This refers to the lawsuits which are brought by non-employees such as clients, landlords, vendors, customers, and so on. Generally, it covers third-party lawsuits which are triggered by any of the following:

    • Damages to property: It covers all damages to someone else property which was caused by your activities or that of your employees while working for you. This includes a lawsuit filed by your landlord due to a fire outbreak at your office which destroyed all or part of his building.

    • Bodily Injuries: It covers all kind of lawsuits arising from bodily injuries sustained by a customer or client while at your premises. This includes a lawsuit filed by a client who slipped and broke a leg at your office.

    • Damage of Reputation: It covers lawsuits arising from defamation. This includes a lawsuit filed by a competitor because of a defamatory comment posted by you or your employees on social media platforms.

    • Infringement of Copyright: It covers lawsuits arising from using someone else idea without seeking his permission. This includes a lawsuit filed by a competitor because of the similarities in your marketing and advertising materials and theirs.

    How can I save money on General Liability Insurance?

    Depending to a large extent on the type of business, General Insurance can be pretty pricey. There are a couple of ways through which you can save money on your General Liability Insurance.

    • Avoid Overestimation: When estimating the gross receipts and payrolls for the upcoming year, many business owners overestimate owing to their high hopes and expectation from their businesses. These figures tend to increase the premium they pay because most policies" premiums are calculated based on the figures of the gross receipts and payrolls.

    • Ensure That You Are Properly Covered: Some business owners sacrifice their proper coverage for lower premiums. They end up having major claims which the little money saved from lower premiums cannot cover.

    • Package Your Policies Properly: When you package your General Liability Insurance with some other policies such as your Business Personal property, you get to enjoy a multi-policy discount.

    If you need any information about Commercial General Liability Insurance or you wish to save some money on your General Liability Insurance, you can contact an Insurance Company and get a quote today.

    IDA serves all the needs of Independent Route Delivery Drivers. We offer up to 30% savings on Commercial Auto and General Liability Insurance. We offer fast & accurate Business Formation services for route delivery drivers who work with the bread and snack industry in USA. for more information Visit: https://www.nationalida.com/

    By Rick Coomer

    Friday, October 5, 2018

    Some Unnecessary Small Business Expenses To Avoid

    When you start a business, you have to be extra careful with how you spend your capital. There are many ways for small business owners to increase their profits. Reducing their costs is one of the simplest and most effective ones. A lot of the times, entrepreneurs would add costs to their budgets that they don't necessarily have to make. It might appear to them that these are necessary expenses when that's not the case. They can add many of these expenses once their business has established.

    Expenses That Small Businesses Should Avoid

    Excessive Advertising

    Yes, advertising is quite important for businesses, but excessive advertisement is not. It still makes sense for large businesses to go full-on with advertising because they have the budget to do so. However, when it comes to small businesses, they must do intelligent and selective advertising only. Their first course of action should be to identify the advertising channels that work best for them. Just because you are a restaurant at the corner of a street does not mean you have to use awnings, vinyls, neon signs, and all other types of materials for advertising purposes. Pick the ones that work and skip what doesn't.

    Too Many Work Hours

    You don't necessarily have to follow the trends of your competitors to compete with them. It does not matter how good they are, even the best ones can make mistakes at times. Many business owners choose to keep their premises opened for customers for long hours. They will open the business early in the morning and close it late at night just so they can serve more customers. However, one must do cost calculation before taking such a step? What if you are getting only five customers in the first three hours of the business and five more at the last two hours?

    Now imagine the cost of utility, wages of your employees, etc. Are you covering the costs of keeping your business opened for five additional hours with only 10 customers? Even if you want to continue this way, you better test it for a week only. If the response is cold, you should quit this practice as soon as possible.

    Pursuing the Best of Everything

    The idea sounds great but is not the way to go about doing business when you are in your early stages. You should spend your money on things you need, not the things you want unless you have the budget to do so. If you are renting space for your office, you should look for a place that you can easily afford. Going for the best location in the most commercial area will cost you a lot of money. You can save your money even when it comes to internal equipment. Why buy new couches, seats and brand new computers when you can do with high-quality used equipment?

    Why go for a printer with fancy looks and capacity to print hundreds of pages in a minute when you won't ever need that many printouts at a time? Go with simple and beautiful when it comes to decorating your office. You don't want to spend your budget on things that are not going to yield any benefits for your business.

    Hiring IT Staff

    IT is integral to any business today, tech or non-tech. However, it does not mean you have to have an IT team on board. One of the beauties of modern technology is that it allows you to outsource a lot of the business processes. The best thing about outsourcing business processes is that you can save a lot of money by doing so. Managed IT services are a perfect way for you to save IT costs while benefitting from expertise of the best professionals of the industry. Rather than paying thousands of dollars to three or four IT people, it makes more sense for small businesses to outsource their IT processes for a small monthly fee.

    The good news is that you can outsource almost anything IT-related. From basic helpdesk to on-demand data officers, IT outsourcing can cover a lot of ground for you.

    Unnecessary Debts

    Taking loans when starting a business is imperative for your growth and to have enough cash in hand to support your operations. However, there are more ways to fund your business than you might realize. Many small business owners follow venture capitalists and conventional banks when it comes time to fund their businesses. However, crowdfunding has emerged as an amazing funding option for startups and small businesses. The good thing about crowdfunding is that you do not necessarily have to offer equity to the investors in your business. Sometimes, you can just reward them with a sample of your product.

    Hiring Only Full-time Employees

    If you own a small business, you might want to consider hiring interns. Interns can benefit your business in many ways. First, you do not have to pay them the salary of a full-time employee. Second, you can ask them to do a lot of the mundane tasks that otherwise affect the productivity of your full-time employees negatively. While it might not be the best practice, in some countries of the world they have free internships as well wherein you do not have to pay your interns. However, that's not the right thing to do, and you should compensate their work to keep them motivated.

    Conclusion

    You should consider avoiding these expenses if you are a small business owner or about to be one. You can always take advice from those who have their own businesses to figure out what's necessary and what's not. Keep yourself up-to-date with new technological advancements. Taking advantage of modern software and hardware solutions can help you save a lot of money. Take the example of a printer with duplex printing option. You could cut your paper costs in half by printing on both sides of the paper. In the end, look into your current setup and operations to see what some expenses are that you can easily live without.

    More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.funded.com

    By Pierre Jean-Claude

    Monday, October 1, 2018

    How To Grow A Small, But Resilient Business

    Small businesses, particularly those looking for an organic growth fail more often than they think. The success rate being fairly low, startups and small businesses need a foolproof strategy to be successful in the long-run. There are several things a small business owner can do to take her business to the next level. While on one hand, setting up of goals, planning in that direction and organizing the tasks is imperative, staying put with the latest technology is also equally important on the other.

    The latest trend that small businesses have been seen to follow is embracing the cloud technology. The bookkeeping technology has taken a sharp turn, moving up from the traditional methods to accounting on the cloud.

    QuickBooks Cloud: A New Way of Managing Finances

    QuickBooks Cloud is bookkeeping software that serves the users with all of the necessary accounting tools at a single platform. It has not only made accounting and bookkeeping easier for its users but also made documenting simpler for CPAs, entrepreneurs and owners. Here is how an entrepreneur can grow a small but resilient business with the help of QuickBooks Cloud.

    • Embrace The Cloud, Once and For All

    To compete with the larger firms and make a mark in the market, firms need to move to the cloud already. QuickBooks Cloud is an innovative way that offers anywhere, anytime accessibility along with a slew of unique benefits such as printing checks, managing payroll, keeping a track of inventory, managing the invoice etc on a single platform, without depending on paper.

    • Enjoy Increased Productivity Finally

    Small firms need to work on their productivity. Since the workforce is comparatively smaller, SMBs need to work out a system that helps them to grow. QuickBooks cloud is highly scalable, thus when a firm grows, the growing functions can be easily managed without increasing the firm's expenditure.

    • Make Tracking A Habit

    In the traditional methods of bookkeeping, entrepreneurs would keep a lot of tasks on the mind instead of on record. This can be classified as an inefficient method of running a business as it is a careless method of tracking the tasks. With QuickBooks Cloud, tracking can be done on the software in no time. The software unfailingly reminds the users to make the payments on time, to track the inventory and to schedule or/and attend the upcoming events.

    • Keep Up With The Taxes

    QuickBooks Cloud helps its users to stay updated with the changes in tax laws. Along with that, tax payments have also become a lot easier as QuickBooks software helps to organize the taxes beforehand. Tax payments with QuickBooks are a stress greatly reduced for the firms.

    • Be A Learner

    A successful entrepreneur understands the importance of being up-to-date with what's latest. Learn where the competitors and leaders are going. The customers need keep on changing and so does the market. Thus, a SMB must keep up with the market to be in business in the long run.

    • Backup and Backup

    Cloud means multiple backups. And with QuickBooks Cloud, an entrepreneur is making sure that he has several backups for his most valuable company's data. Loss of data owing to any possible cause can mean a loss of thousands of dollars to the firm. Thus, every company is required to keep its data safe.

    • Enjoy Better Planning For Your Business

    Cloud helps the firms to plan its future in a better way. The scalability feature of cloud helps firms to expand and contract their functions easily. With easy access from anytime, anywhere, the entrepreneurs can carry out the work with the clients and CPAs even if they are located at a remote location in any part of the world. Thus, better planning and problem solving made easier on multiple levels.

    QuickBooks Cloud has helped young entrepreneurs, CPAs and owners of small and medium sized businesses to do more at a single platform. With cloud computing technology, the users will not only save their time and money, but will also stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field of bookkeeping. Businesses thus looking to compete with the larger companies can start with accepting QuickBooks Cloud server for running their accounting operations in a more resilient manner.


    Tina Smith is an accountant with SageNext Infotech. She is having expertise in project management, accounting operations. With SageNext, she consults the client accountants about the benefits of QuickBooks Hosting. SageNext is a leading tax and accounting application hosting provider like QuickBooks cloud hosting, Drake hosting and so on.

    Thursday, September 27, 2018

    Howdy Partner! {Or How To Set Up A Business Partnership}

    It is said that two heads are better than one and that is often true. When two people join forces to work on an important goal, expertise and resources are shared and the goal is reached more quickly. Moreover, there is someone available to help make decisions, someone to vent frustrations and celebrate victories with. Human beings are social animals. Most of us have an intimate partner in our life, or would like one. Many aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs would like to have a partner in their enterprise, as well.
    A life or business partner can bring many advantages to a relationship, or can bring disaster. Most business partnerships fail and nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Your marriage partner and your business partner must each be chosen with care and an eye to the future. Opposites may attract, but they are usually unsustainable affairs. Shared values, goals, priorities, expectations, vision for the enterprise and complementary skills are the ties that bind.
    Before you start talking partnership with your presumed intended, catalogue the resources that the venture needs to reach and sustain profitability. Consider what you are willing to give up to obtain those resources. If you need start-up or expansion capital, approaching a lending institution may be the best strategy. If your financial projections indicate that revenues generated will allow you to repay the borrowed money within five years and your credit is good, talk to your accountant and banker and figure out a loan strategy. If specific expertise is what the business needs, then write-up job specs and hire employees.
    If money is the primary issue and you prefer to finance privately, then some form of partnership is your money-raising strategy. Calculate the optimal amount of capital investment required and ask your accountant or business attorney to estimate how much ownership you will likely have to relinquish to your investing partner. If it appears that you cannot afford to keep at least 51%, then consider taking on two partners and giving yourself controlling interest. Never split 50 - 50, to avoid becoming deadlocked on important decisions.
    In my business plan writing workshop, I emphasize that you have to know yourself when you're in business. Think objectively about how much of a presence of others in your business you can tolerate. Your personality type may lead you to seek a limited or silent partner arrangement, a partner who mostly wants to make money and believes in your ability to operate the business wisely.
    However, you may conclude that you need a general partner, one who makes both a monetary investment and contributes expertise and business acumen. You will then have to accept that there is more than one way to view challenges, opportunities and risks and that decision-making will be shared. Those realities are always big adjustments for the founding partner.
    Additionally, you and the partner must carve out your respective roles and responsibilities in the business. Be sure also to address the amount of time the partner plans to contribute weekly. Can you live with that? The division of labor must be established and written into the partnership agreement. Check also the presumed partner's financial history. Do not form a partnership with one who carries heavy debt.
    Finally, include an exit strategy in the agreement. Sometimes things don't work out and someone wants out. Protect the business and yourself with a partner buy-out option and provisions for the divorce, illness, or death of a partner. Make sure you don't wind up in business with an ex-spouse, surviving spouse, or the partner's children.
    Thanks for reading,
    Kim
    Kim L. Clark is an external strategy and marketing consultant who brings agile talent to the for-profit and not-for-profit organization leaders with whom she works. To learn how Kim can help you and your team develop strategy and achieve important goals, please visit http://polishedprofessionalsboston.com.
    By 

    Tuesday, September 25, 2018

    15 Startup Funding Sites And Sources - How To Find Business Investors

    In this video, I will show you 15 of the best websites and other places to get startup funding for your idea. Sometimes, the best businesses need quite a bit of capital to get off the ground and it's hard to have enough money in the bank to cover it all. This is why we need investors. Whether it is crowdfunding, loans, grants, angel investing, etc., here are some of the best options you have for getting the startup money you need. Enjoy the video!


    Thursday, September 20, 2018

    This Is Why You're Not Happy....One Of The Most Eye Opening Speeches EVER

    Everyone....not just small business owners....should watch this video from Matthew McConaughey AND listen to every word!

    This is soooo insightful.


    Wednesday, September 19, 2018

    Eleven Steps In Buying A Business

    Purchasing an established business can be a daunting and complicated process for many individuals. Understanding the steps involved in the acquisition and doing the necessary planning and preparation will enable the buyer to increase their chances for a successful transaction. Following an established and proven process will not only reduce the stress that often comes with chartering new territory but also eliminate many of the risks and unknowns that often derail a business acquisition.
    1. PERSONAL ASSESSMENT
    The first step in buying a business starts with introspection. This process should be a thoughtful and honest examination of the candidates' strengths and weaknesses, skill set, as well as their likes and dislikes. This analysis will assist in narrowing the selection for the logical and best choice of business enterprise to pursue.
    What talents, skills, and experience do you bring to the table and what are the types of businesses that can excel with these attributes behind the helm. Here are a number of questions that the introspection phase should involve:
    1. What type of business do you want to operate? Is it one where you are the owner/manager or do you prefer to have a management team in place?
    2. What hours are you available to dedicate to the business? Obviously, owning a small business will never be a 9 to 5 endeavor. Having said that, it will be important to determine the time available to manage the business. Do you prefer a B2B business that operates M-F 8-6pm or are you more flexible and would consider a consumer oriented business that is open late or often over the weekends?
    3. Are you successful at sales, meeting with clients, and being the face of the business or are you better suited to a managerial role and running the business from behind the scenes with an established sales force in place?
    4. Are you able to travel and be away from home for several days or do you require a business that keeps you close to the family each day of the week?
    5. Do you have a background and expertise in the manufacturing of products or is it the service industry or distribution model that is more your forte?
    6. Do you have any licenses or certifications that qualify you for a certain business? If not, are you prepared to obtain the necessary credentials required for successful ownership if the targeted business requires such certifications?
    7. What are the things that you really enjoy doing? What are the things that you prefer not to do? The best advice is to start considering businesses in industries that the buyer is passionate about.
    These are a few of the questions that will help an individual assess the types of businesses that they are best suited for and assist in narrowing the range of enterprises where the buyers skill set, experience, capabilities and passions can be leveraged.
    1. DEVELOP INVESTMENT CRITERIA
    Now that you have established the type of business that is a 'good fit' the next step is to put pen to paper and concisely define your investment criteria. If you will be seeking bank financing it will be important that the investment criteria match your resume or the transferrable skills that you are bringing to the table. The investment criteria will state the following:
    1. What is the price range of the business that you can afford to buy?
    2. What is the geographic location for the business you seek to buy?
    3. What type of business are you looking for?
      • Manufacturing
      • Wholesale/Distribution
      • Service
      • Retail
      • Web-based
    4. What industry should the business be in?
    5. Management structure (owner managed or management team in place)?
    6. Size of business. In terms of:
      • Revenues
      • Profits/Earnings
      • Number of employees
      • Number of locations 
    7. Recurring revenue model vs. project based

    8. LENDER PREQUALIFICATION
    If you plan to use bank financing to acquire a business it is important that you obtain a prequalification before your search process. Not only will this the 'prequal' provide you with the data as to how large of a business you qualify to purchase but it will also demonstrate to the business broker and seller that you are a serious buyer. If you are serious about buying a business and will need to obtain financing, receiving a bank prequalification is a required step at some point in time. Therefore, what would be the reason for procrastinating and not having this in place at the outset? There is zero downside and only considerable benefits. Contact your business broker as they will be able to recommend a financial institution that does business acquisition lending for the type of business you are interested in purchasing. This is an area where having the right lender is critical.
    1. BUSINESS SEARCH (Individual or Retained)
    What is the process that you are following to locate and qualify businesses for purchase? Will you be conducting the search on your own or will you utilize the services of a professional business intermediary or broker. There are literally thousands of business for sale at any given moment. A process needs to be established for conducting the search and qualifying businesses. Few of these businesses are of the quality, caliber, and profit level that distinguish them as being best in breed. What have you done to ensure that you will stand out and be given the proper consideration when engaging a broker regarding a business for sale? The business-for-sale marketplace is plagued by unprepared and non-serious buyers inquiring about any enterprise listed for sale. It takes the right preparation, message, and professional team to establish contact and quickly get to the point where the business can be qualified as a legitimate candidate or one that should be dismissed. Too many prospective buyers fall prey to the late business internet search process and clicking on any business that catches their interest. Unfortunately, serious buyers get lost in the field. This is where the prior steps come in handy - having a personal bio, an established investment criteria, as well as a lender preapproval.
    1. QUALIFICATION
    A business that is professionally represented for sale will have a number of documents available for review by prospective buyers (e.g. Financials, Asset list, Business Summary, etc). Buyers will need to execute an NDA in addition to demonstrating that they are qualified both from a financial standpoint as well as an experience standpoint to be considered a serious candidate.
    At this stage the buyer should already have completed individual research or have first-hand knowledge on the industry. For those without direct industry experience there are trade magazines for just about any business sector not to mention the wealth of data available on the World Wide Web.
    The buyer should have a list of questions already prepared, designed for one purpose - determining if the business meets the majority of elements within the investment criteria. The buyer should understand the value of the business. If the business is priced outside of their financial ability they should not be evaluating the business and wasting anyone's time, most importantly their own. It will be important for a serious buyer to recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect business and each will have different strengths and weaknesses. Most buyers are seeking businesses with growing revenue, a stable customer base, excellent staff, established policy & procedures, and increasing profits. What are the most important qualities that you are seeking? Ranking the criteria is often helpful when qualifying businesses. Finding a business which meets some but not all of the criteria is more the norm than the exception. In many cases, the buyer may be positioned and experienced to improve certain business aspects that are deficient. Following this approach will also enable the buyer to quickly and efficiently eliminate those businesses which will not be a suitable fit, an endeavor that will save all parties considerable time. A quick no is far better than a slow no for everyone's sake. Lastly, the buyer should recognize that the better the business is, the more they will be expected to pay.
    After the initial information exchange the buyer should prepare a second set of questions based upon the particulars of the specific business. After receiving this information the time has been reached where the buyer knows whether their basic criteria has been met. The buyer is clear on the business valuation, the financials, and the business operations and the seller (through the broker) should be clear on how the candidate will be financing the transaction.
    A teleconference should be arranged by the business broker to fill in any gaps of information and to allow specific business questions to be asked by the buyer and answered directly by the seller. Should this interaction satisfy the requirements of all parties a personal meeting and site visit is often arranged. During this meeting the buyer, seller, and broker can discuss the framework for a transaction that will satisfy the needs of each party. Only serious contenders should be involved at this point. Now is not the time to waste anyone's time as a tire-kicker if the goal is not to proceed. Buyers should be clear that regardless of signing the NDA, data such as names of specific clients will not be divulged, not just at this point, but until the transaction closes.
    1. LETTER OF INTENT - TERMS SHEET
    A Letter of Intent (LOI) and Terms Sheet are typically non-binding documents which are used for one fundamental purpose... to determine if there is a meeting of the minds between the buyer and seller on the price and terms of the sale. The LOI will outline the strategic points of the agreement. Investing time at this stage and preparing a more detailed document will avoid misunderstandings and prevent key terms from being renegotiated later. Some of the broad points that should be addressed include:
    1. Who is buying the business?
    2. What is being acquired (Assets, Stock)
    3. Transaction price and how that money is being paid
    4. Loan commitment letter date.
    5. Proposed closing date.
    6. Is there a consulting agreement and if so, what are the terms?
    7. What are the contingencies for the transaction to close?
    1. LOAN COMMITMENT LETTER
    With an executed (signed) LOI in hand the buyer will now need to obtain a 'Loan Commitment Letter' from the lender. A loan commitment letter is produced by the bank and will confirm that the buyer is approved for financing to acquire the business. The Loan Commitment Letter is generated after a thorough review of both the buyer's data as well as the target business' data.
    1. DUE DILIGENCE
    Most business acquisition transactions will require bank funding. The bank will have a proven, structured, and very detailed due diligence process and it is this methodology that the buyer should rely upon when acquiring a business. Why attempt to recreate the wheel? The bank works solely on behalf of the buyer and their fundamental interest is in ensuring that the buyer is acquiring a business that has the required financial framework for the new owner to be successful and positioned to repay the principal and interest on the acquisition loan. The bank will provide a DD checklist that covers a wide variety of documents, including but not limited to the following areas:
    1. Financial Statements & Tax Returns
    2. Asset & Inventory List
    3. AP & AR
    4. Corporate Books & Records
    5. Contingent Liabilities
    6. Sales & Marketing Materials
    7. Employee Agreements & Benefit Plans
    8. Equipment, Vehicle, & Property Leases
    9. Customer and Supplier Contracts or other Agreements
    10. Insurance Policies
    1. PURCHASE CONTRACT
    The business for sale contract aka Definitive Purchase Agreement (DPA) is typically drafted by the Buyer's 'Transaction Attorney' after the LOI is in place. If the proper care was taken in developing the LOI, the DPA should be a much easier document to produce. In circumstances where the major deal components were not properly negotiated or addressed in the LOI, the DPA becomes much for complicated and a higher risk level is associated with the transaction closing.
    Upon execution of the LOI, the DD period commences and the DPA should begin being drafted. The DPA is the binding contract covering all aspects of the transaction. The DPA will cover all assets that are connected to the purchase, including but not limited to:
    1. Assets/Stock being acquired
    2. Price, Terms, & Payment
    3. Representations & Warranties
    4. Covenants
    5. Indemnification
    6. Non-Competition Agreements
    7. Lease Assignments
    8. Landlord Consents
    9. Consulting Agreements
    10. Asset Allocation
    In most transactions the DPA is executed at the closing table but this is not a requirement. In certain circumstances, the buyer and seller will elect to execute this Agreement prior to the actual close.
    The DPA is the actual contract that consummates the sale of the business. It will include a number of Schedules and Exhibits detailing all of the terms of the sale. This is a custom Agreement and the level of detail, length, and companion schedules and attachments is predicated on the particular business.
    During this stage the buyer should already have their new business entity established (assuming it is not a stock sale), business bank accounts created, insurance policies prepared, merchant credit card accounts (if applicable) in place, etc.
    1. THE CLOSING
    The closing should be the easiest part of the process. Why? Because all of the above steps have been followed diligently by both parties. For business-for-sale transactions the "closing" is simply the process by which both the buyer and seller execute (sign) all of the documents that have already been discussed and agreed to. Having the right transaction team in place from the start (transaction attorney, business broker, and lender) will make this a smooth process. Each of the advisors has their role and when done properly the closing becomes an uneventful step.
    1. TRANSITION
    The terms and conditions of the business transition will vary based upon the type and complexity of the individual business. Obviously, the specifics will have already been spelled out and agreed to in the DPA. For some businesses, a customary 4 week transition period is all that is required. For others, the Seller will assist for an extended period of time, often under an employment or consulting contract. When bank financing is involved, especially the SBA, the Seller is typically restricted to a consulting or employment contract that does not extend beyond 12 months. The transition period is the stage where the seller and new owner implement the change of ownership and how that is communicated to employees, customers, suppliers, etc.
    The transition of ownership represents a big change and the goal is (often) to make it as seamless as possible. To be effective, this process must be planned in advance with all stakeholders in agreement

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