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Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngSummer is here and in many communities, that means an influx of tourists. While it’s obvious how local attractions benefit from tourism, it’s not always as clear how retailers can take advantage of the summer surge of tourists.

 

But, there are plenty of ways to profit from the tourist trade. Here are 12 top hacks to consider:

 

1. Grab their attention. Sightseeing tourists need something eye-catching to get them in your door. Attention-grabbing window displays and signage, having an employee outside the door offering coupons or samples, or even putting product displays outside the store can make them stop and shop.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Target packaged tours. Do you sell luxury products? Overseas tourists are often eager to buy luxury goods at lower prices in the U.S. than they can find at home. Find tour companies that cater to specific niches that might be interested in your products (such as Japanese tourists or young, single women) and see if your store or street can be added to the tour.

 

3. Focus on small indulgences. Travelers are typically in a spending frame of mind, primed to treat themselves. Stock a supply of tempting, but affordable, treats near your entrance and point-of-sale area.

 

4. Hype local flavor. Tourists with “souvenir fever” like to buy products they can’t get anywhere else. If you sell products from local manufacturers, artisans or producers, play that up in your marketing.

 

5. Participate in local events that attract tourists. Do tourists flock to your area for an annual music festival, craft fairs or a marathon run? Having a presence at these events can help you profit from the tourists. Set up a booth to sell products; hand out business cards or flyers with your website so tourists can order from you when they go back home.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO ENJOY VACATION AND KEEP YOUR BUSINESS HUMMING

 

44056797_s.jpg6. Cross-promote with other businesses that appeal to tourists. For instance, if you own a children’s toy store, see if a local waterpark, petting zoo or other business that appeals to traveling families will link to your store on their website, put flyers for your store in their business or otherwise work together to get customers.

 

7. Get help from the local tourism association. Most communities that attract tourists have a tourism association to promote business in the area. Find out what types of assistance they offer to help you promote your retail store. For example, you might be able to sell products or place brochures in the visitors’ center.

 

8. Work with local hotels. Hotels typically display racks of brochures from local businesses, and provide guests with in-room guidebooks highlighting local businesses. See if your store can be included.

 

9. Get listed in event calendars. If your community has an events calendar, website or publication that tourists use to find things to do, ask about getting a listing or placing an ad. Consider hosting in-store events such as author signings at your bookstore to make your store is appealing as a tourist destination.

 

10. Make it educational. Many people enjoy the educational aspects to travel. Can you offer shoppers a hands-on chance to learn something relevant to your region? For instance, a sweets shop in Vermont could demonstrate how to make maple sugar candy.

 

11. Get their autographs. Have visitors sign a guestbook; ask for names, contact information and a comment about their trip. If you want to market to them (via email or direct mail), ask for permission. You can sell to them all year and reach out to them the following spring to remind them of your business. Consider offering an incentive for them to come back

 

12. Give great service. Remember, whenever you interact with a tourist, you're not just representing your store—you’re also representing your community. Remind your employees to put their best face forward so visitors will fondly remember your store and your town.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngIt’s that time of year when I sound like an updated version of an old movie:

 

“Step away from the keyboard and put down the phone!”

 

It can be difficult for a lot of small business people to take time off. Vacation time might feel like an antiquated concept to you, which is not surprising considering that Americans have been taking off less and less time in recent years. Look at these recent dreary stats from the website TravelForSmallBiz:

 

  • 47 percent of small business owners took no vacation time
  • 44 percent did not go with their families on vacation
  • And 41 percent hadn’t taken a 7-day vacation in at least two years

 

This simply will not do.

 

If the sake of enjoyment is not enough to convince you to take a breather, then think of vacation as an investment: nobody can produce quality work without a bit of rest and relaxation here and there. By allowing yourself to become fully rejuvenated, you can then return to work with a clearer mind and plenty of energy.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

There are ways to take a vacation while keeping your business running. Here are my top tips:

 

Plan ahead: The key to making sure you can relax while you’re away is to make sure you’ve covered all bases before leaving town. If you’re a freelancer, work like mad for a few days and get some projects done early.

 

If going on vacation would mean leaving your employees short-staffed, then bring in extra people and resources ahead of time so that nobody has to scramble while you’re gone. It might be time to finally hire a temp or a virtual assistant.

 

Another idea is to schedule a little extra time once you get back, to readjust and catch up on your work before heading back to the office.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WANT TO BE A GREAT BOSS? DEVELOP THESE TRAITS

 

47716018_s.jpgUse technology: Ideally, it would be nice to unplug altogether while on vacation, but sometimes that simply isn’t possible. If answering a few emails or being available for your employees in case of an emergency is what makes your business continue to run smoothly (and makes you feel comfortable) then you shouldn’t hesitate.

 

Take advantage of the slow season: Owning a small business certainly makes it a little trickier to go on vacation, but it can be easier if you take time off during your slow season. If summer is your peak business season, then don’t go on a summer vacation. Make your own “summer” vacation congruent with your slow season – it will also make your absence easier on your team.

 

Reminder – people often take time off during the last week of August and late December, so consider using this slower time to your advantage as well.

 

Combine business and pleasure: In order to save money and not waste time, you can always make it a point to have fun on your business trips. That could mean bringing your family with you or ignoring your jet lag to go sight-seeing. Business trips can be a great way to create a built-in vacation.

 

Take three day weekends: If you don’t see yourself taking a 10-day vacation, then at least give yourself an extra weekend day semi-regularly this summer. It really is important to stop and reboot.

 

And so, it is time for me to heed my own advice and logoff.

 

Aloha!

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngManaging multiple clients is a challenge every business owner hopes to face at some point – having to balance managing that one big client you’re thrilled to have landed, and still getting everything done for all your other clients.   

 

On the one hand, you want to go all out for your biggest client to make sure you keep them happy. Crazy tight turnaround times? No problem! Tons of out-of-scope requests? Bring ‘em on! After all, they are paying you more, right? And you certainly don’t want to lose them.

 

But if all that extra work causes you to start neglecting other clients, it won’t be long before your biggest client is your only client – and that can be disastrous.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

So how can you find balance and keep everyone happy, from your biggest to your smallest client? Here are my top three tips:

 

1. Get Really Organized

If you were already juggling multiple clients before you closed the deal with your biggest, then already have an organizational system in place that works for you. But when you’re dealing with all those clients plus a big one that may take up as much bandwidth as several others, you’re going to have to get hyper-organized.

 

Without a tool that lets everyone involved clearly see tasks and deadlines, as well as communicate with each other, things will eventually start slipping through the cracks. And without a solid time management plan for yourself and your team, you’ll have difficulties fitting in all that extra work. Try online tools like Basecamp or Trello, and time management apps like Toggl or Focus Booster

 

2.  Have a Backup Plan for Your Backup Plan

At some point, there will come a day when your biggest client hands you a huge project due tomorrow, three of your other clients have urgent work they need completed, and a fourth one urgently needs you to adjust a project you thought was complete. Two of your employees will call in sick, and some tool vital to the running of your business will break down. When that day comes, no amount of tearing your hair out will make your resources stretch enough to do it all.

 

29459868_s.jpgRELATED ARTICLE: THE EMERGING TECH THAT COULD BOOST YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

That’s why it’s vital to have a multi-layer backup plan in place. Try out freelancers and contractors before you need them, and find out what their availability is like, so that you know who you can call to get the job done when you’re in a pinch. Decide on an overtime policy, in case you have to ask your team to work extra hours. And find solid workarounds or replacement options for your tools before they die on you. Without a plan in place, things can quickly start crashing down all around you. 

 

3. Be Proactive

As much as it’s a business cliché, it’s still true – being proactive is one of the best ways to ensure that you always meet your clients’ expectations.

 

Anticipate issues that might arise in advance, and work them into your contract so that all your clients, big and small, know from the outset what they can and can’t ask for. That’s not to say you can’t go above and beyond if you determine you have the resources – but then the client will recognize that you’re going the extra mile for them, and appreciate you all the more for it. Ask clients often for information on any upcoming projects, and remind them of the lead time you need to get it done, so that you can work bigger projects into your schedule more easily.

 

By getting organized, putting a backup plan in place, and being proactive, you’ll be able to handle your biggest client and all your regular clients so well that you just might gain a few more of those big clients – and what a great problem to have!

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngThere were lots of things I loved about becoming self-employed when my entrepreneurial journey began, but near the top of the list had to be my newfound ability to drop my kids off and pick them up from school. I loved that.

 

Being a parent is a full-time job, and there are a lot of adjectives that describe it: fun, exhausting, frustrating, time-consuming, rewarding, joyous, and everything in between. For a lot of parents – especially new ones – it might seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do anything extra. I certainly don’t miss that sleep deprivation.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

One thing I’ve learned: Fatherhood is a very good precursor to entrepreneurship. So, on this Father’s Day, I want to salute all the “dadpreneurs” out there – both the ones who own their own businesses and the ones who don’t – because it turns out that if you are helping with the kids, you are an entrepreneur in training.

 

In fact, if you are thinking of starting a business, know that your fatherhood can bring forth your entrepreneurial ambitions. Here’s why:

 

Fatherhood requires teamwork: If you are married or have a significant other, you already know parenting requires cooperation and compromise. Knowing how to let go of your ego and make joint decisions is an essential part of parenting…as well entrepreneurship.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS REALLY, REALLY LIKE THEIR WORK

 

Many successful businesses have more than one co-founder. This is a simple matter of “two heads are better than one.” If you already know how to recognize your own weaknesses, acknowledge your partner’s strengths, and work as a team, then you are well on your way to being a successful entrepreneur. Teamwork is a cornerstone to running a successful small business, and that type of teamwork is the same when it comes to parenting. this applies to single dads, as well. Partnership obviously extends between you and your child. This has everything to do with putting your own needs aside and thinking of the greater good, and learning how and when to say no, cooperation, patience, assertiveness, and compassion. These are all the same traits needed when it comes to managing a team and a growing business.

 

Fatherhood teaches resourcefulness: There isn’t always an easy answer in the world of fatherhood, much like in the world of business. Starting a business is a notoriously challenging process that requires attention, quick decision making when things don’t go according to plan (which will happen often), and juggling, not unlike changing a diaper while engaging the toddler and talking to your partner on the phone.

 

In this sense, being a dad is excellent small business training. Can you do it all?

 

46770350_s.jpgFatherhood = patience: Starting your own business is often a waiting game. Your business will most likely not become super successful as quickly as you’d like, which just means you need to stick to it and not give up. This is very difficult for a lot of people, but dads know that program.

 

Fatherhood means prioritizing and multitasking: Being a dad means you have to wear many hats at once while t understanding which hat is most important at a given time. Is being in the school play more important than having extra time to get their homework done? As a parent, you are the CEO and have to decide. Similarly, running a small business means being able to make quality executive decisions about which tasks have more priority and which can wait.

 

As I said, part of the beauty of owning a small business is that it allows you to create your own schedule. Furthermore, it also allows you to make your own decisions, and have more control over your financial situation. For a lot of dads, these are all highly valued benefits.

 

Sure, the prospect of becoming an entrepreneur might seem risky, but chances are, you’re way more prepared than you think.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngIn 2002, Elon Musk founded SpaceX, essentially because he wanted to colonize Mars, but he didn’t even have affordable rocket power to send some plants to the planet. Late last year, NASA signed a contract with SpaceX, making them one of two companies contracted to take passengers to the International Space Station.

 

Granted, most small businesses don’t have the financial resources to literally reach for the stars in such a grand fashion. But, this doesn’t mean that small business owners shouldn’t think big.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

Here is an organized approach that can help your company move toward amazing accomplishments and profits.

 

Develop a lofty long-term vision

You’ll never fly to Mars if you don’t even know that you want to go there, but a vision with a strong sense of purpose can make anything possible. Musk believes that populating a second planet with humans is the only way to prevent the extinction of humanity. On the other hand, you may believe that a previously untried way of implementing the software design process can bring greater efficiency to your company and profound benefits to your clients.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 4 RULES TO TAKE YOUR BUSINESS FROM SMALL TO BIG

 

If you can imagine that achieving your vision will put your face on the front cover of every business magazine — and interviews on prominent cable business networks — then don’t worry about the potential costs or even immediate client acceptance. This is your perception of a better future; you’ll address the practicalities soon enough.

 

Create a segmented strategy

It took countless steps for SpaceX to get to today’s space station contract and it has many more steps to go before they begin populating Mars. The chances are that your company cannot fly to your long-term vision in one fell swoop, either.

 

Your job is to break your long-term goals into manageable chunks. Step 1 is to look hard at all possible options. There is probably more than one path toward accomplishing your vision, so take some time to try to predict the pros and cons of each step before writing down the ones that make the most sense. Once completed, your strategy document can double as a road map of the implementation process.

 

52826431_s.jpgAllow for failure

As you start working your plan, recognize all the strategizing in the world cannot prevent surprise glitches. Everyone knows that failures are the best teachers, yet most of us fear failure more than we welcome its valuable lessons.

 

You have to dig down to the underlying reasons, which might turn out to be very minor in nature. Did your new programming strategy fail because someone missed important steps when designing the new process or did a minor typo create the glitch?

 

The point here is that failure seldom signals the need to quit. In many cases, you need to identify the causes for failure, fix them and then applaud the fact that you are one step closer to achieving your vision.

 

Don’t forget that a perceived failure might lead to another big idea. The adhesive used for sticky notes was developed by a failure to create super-strong adhesive for use by the aerospace industry. It took about five years, but someone finally recognized the value of a mild tacky substance that led to must-have products for office workers everywhere.

 

Share your vision

Everyone on your team has different skills and interests, so you never know who might think of something that will take your vision over the top. It is so important for everyone in the company to know where you want your company to be in the near, middle and long-term future. Invite them to share ideas on how to get there.

 

Also, consider discussing your dreams judiciously with individuals outside of your immediate business. Friends and family members can surprise you with solutions that you may never have considered, and professional organization meetings are a great source of ideas.

 

Factor in realism… to a point

Even NASA says that the odds are in favor of a successful SpaceX Mars mission, but getting people there safely is less certain, much less planet colonization. In late 2016, Musk addressed an enthralled audience about the project and its progress, but he clearly indicated a lack of concern about the many serious outstanding issues.

 

For small business owners, most big visions do not come with the potential for fatal outcomes, but any number of major concerns can still factor into the mix. Naturally, you need to identify the risks and consider them in your plans. But, if you want to achieve big goals, you can’t let seemingly unmanageable problems hamper your vision. By keeping your mind open to the impossible, you can often achieve it.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngIt would be wonderful to make business decisions based on 100 percent factual criteria, but how often are all facts etched in stone? Life is full of uncertainty.

 

Economic downturns can stop great customers from continuing to pay their bills. New regulations can suddenly prevent you from conducting business exactly as you have before. Some key employees may retire. These are just a few examples of the types of uncertainty that can affect your decision-making process.

 

Entrepreneurs are typically risk-takers by nature, but uncertainty can make or break many companies. Here are 5 ways to handle uncertainty when making business decisions.

 

1. Don’t let uncertainty stop you from moving forward

First and foremost, uncertainty should not put your goals on hold. If you fail to move forward with plans, your business cannot achieve success. A positive attitude helps you break through a stagnating thought process, so you can think clearly and make plans flexible enough to transcend the unknown.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

When uncertainty looms, recognizing silver linings can help. If your go-to supplier shows early signs of unreliability, for example, don’t view the situation as upcoming doom for your company. With the right attitude, shopping for new vendors can be as exciting as a trip to your favorite retailer. You might find a vendor that’s better than the original one — and you’ll sleep better knowing that you have a backup plan in place.

 

2. Pre-plan for all imagined possible outcomes

Even when you can’t precisely predict unknown situations that can throw a wrench into your plans, you probably know what circumstances might pop up in the future.

 

For example, are you a carpenter who wants to add high-end furniture making to your business? News reports pointing to a possible upcoming cherry wood shortage won’t affect your plans if you know that customers would be just as happy with furniture made from beautiful red cedar, instead.

 

This is known as potential problem analysis, a system developed by Kepner Trego about six decades ago. By using this systematic approach to predict what can go wrong, you essentially reduce uncertainty by developing a roadmap for handling anything that might arise.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: IN A HEALTHY ECONOMY, TRY THESE TIPS TO RETAIN YOUR BEST EMPLOYEES

 

18982398_s.jpg3. Turn to your professional network

Do you belong to one or more organizations that focus on issues that are important to your business? If not, then you should consider some memberships.

 

Don’t be surprised if meeting topics sometimes specifically address matters that create uncertainty in your industry. And, attending meetings puts you in touch with like-minded individuals who are more than willing to help you work through some of your concerns, just as you are willing to do for them.

 

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to turn to people in your industry for solid suggestions. Trusted relatives and friends in your personal network can be surprisingly on-point when providing business advice — even if your industry happens to be rocket science.

 

4. Learn current trends by monitoring the news

Don’t let your overcrowded schedule serve as an excuse to avoid regularly keeping up with the news. Current events can have a major impact on your business and the more you know, the more you can reduce uncertainty.

 

General or industry news identifies trends and how other companies are handling them. For example, if businesses are resuming spending after an economic downturn, it may be a sign for you to analyze if it’s time to reconsider a stalled buying decision.

 

Keep in mind that this type of news is hardly an edict. Consider whether those companies are similar, versus large enough to handle more risk. And, countless other details specific to your business must drive your decisions. But, at least you will gain some new thoughts.

 

5. Monitor closely

Particularly if you pre-planned as suggested in No. 2 above, you need to keep current on an issue, so that you can identify when to put an alternate plan into action.

 

Uncertainty is not stagnant; it can change over time or disappear altogether. A client that stopped paying its bills might resolve its financial issues, while another might go out of business. In either case, monitoring their circumstances will tell you if you can resolve their bill-pay issues and add them back to your current customer list — or end the relationship and take a tax write-off.

 

If anything’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.

 

They say that nothing other than death and taxes are certain in life, with change being a possible third certainty. Still, uncertainty does not mean pandemonium. When you learn how to keep control, you can reduce the effects of uncertainty and make the decisions needed to keep your business healthy.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngI constantly have entrepreneurs clamoring for me to give them opinions on their new businesses.  However, this request is always followed by asking me to sign a non-disclosure agreement for fear of their precious new idea getting out.

 

And every time I am asked to sign an NDA, I decline.

 

This is met with the protest follow-up question, “Well, then, how do I protect my idea?”

 

My answer is always the same. “You don’t.  And it doesn’t matter, because your idea is basically worthless.”

 

You heard me right; ideas have little to no value. It’s the execution of the ideas that holds all the value. It’s why Facebook is worth billions of dollars and why myriad other social networks aren’t. It’s why the very same company can be worth nothing or millions at different points of its lifecycle – or under different management.

 

Let me explain further.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

First, with rare exception, your idea already exists in some form. Most ideas are an improvement on or a different spin on an existing idea. Also, regardless of which components of your idea you believe to be “new,” there are probably others that have thought of it, as well. This is a main reason why neither venture capitalists nor I will not sign nondisclosure agreements; very frequently, the same ideas come to light independently at the same time or near the same time.

 

Moreover, the components of your idea that differentiate it, including you, your experience, your network, your intellectual property and other unique things you and your team bring to the table, can’t be replicated. You and your team are what differentiate how you frame a problem and its solution, the technology and other resources you bring to the table and your willingness (or lack thereof) to do anything it takes to make it happen.

 

A standout example of this is Google. When Google started as a mere search engine, the idea to create a search engine was not new. In fact, there were many search engines that preceded Google, including OpenText, Magellan, Infoseek and Snap. What was different was the way that the founders envisioned search, their competencies and ultimately, their code. The idea for Google wasn’t valuable, but the execution of Google was, and remains so today.

10406302_s.jpg

That’s why the execution of a business is all that matters in determining value. It’s why investors bet on the founders behind a business more than anything. Most business plans pivot – some in a small way, some entirely – but investors back people they believe will execute well, regardless of the pivots required along the way.

 

When Starbucks was created, the idea of a coffee shop on every block that charged significantly more for coffee when coffee was widely available wasn’t a great idea. But Howard Schultz’s management and execution of that idea is what made Starbucks change the landscape and our consumer habits.

 

Another way to illustrate the non-value of ideas are the companies that have had different fates under different management.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 STEPS TO FINDING A BUSINESS MENTOR

 

If you know anything about mixed martial arts, you are probably familiar with the Ultimate Fighting Championship or “UFC” league. It was created by Semaphore Entertainment Group in 1993. As I explain in my book, The Entrepreneur Equation, it almost went bankrupt. Years later, two casino moguls, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, along with Dana White, bought out the struggling business. Less than a decade later, the UFC was valued at approximately $1 billion. In July of 2016, the business was sold to WME-IMG for approximately $4 billion.

 

So, one company based on a single idea was once worth nothing and later worth $1 billion and then $4 billion. This variability is because the idea for a mixed martial arts league was worth nothing. It was the execution that created the value.

Since I brought up my book, you may ask why I decided to copyright it if ideas have no value. The answer is straightforward: I didn't protect the idea of the book; I protected the final work product.

Here’s the differentiation. My idea was to write a book around the framework of evaluating the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship. Had I done nothing with it, it would have no value. Only after writing the 80,000-plus words and then revising, editing and packaging it into a final product did I seek protection.

 

So, get over holding onto your ideas and get out there and do something with them. When you have put the time, effort and money into generating something of value, you can protect that, but don’t let your fear of sharing ideas hold you back.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Ebong Eka Headshot.pngOne of the most frequently asked questions about taxes I receive this time of year is: “What if I can’t pay all of my taxes on Tax Day?”

 

Great question – I get it, life happens and sometimes for many small business owners, cashflow is sporadic and in some unfortunate cases anemic.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLES MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT EBONG EKA

 

So what do you do if you didn’t pay what you owe the IRS on tax day?

 

1. Don’t panic and don’t bury your head in the sand. The IRS isn’t trying to ruin your business, yet panicking or avoiding the issue will only lead to more troubles in the long run. Clients I’ve represented before the IRS could have avoiding large penalties if they had immediately dealt with the issue instead of putting it off.

 

2. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. Hopefully, you filed a valid extension to avoid the “Failure to file timely” penalty. You may still be subject to the late payment penalty if you don’t pay everything you owe by the filing date. Paying as much as you can upfront could also decrease the interest charges as well.

 

3. Consider obtaining a personal loan or credit card to pay what you owe. Why? Credit cards and personal loans generally have lower interest rates than the interest rates provided by the IRS.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: BEWARE THE NICKEL & DIMERS

 

18022330_s.jpg4. Don’t wait for the IRS - Contact the IRS for an installment agreement. The installment agreement is a payment plan to pay the taxes you owe on your tax return. Visit the IRS.gov for Form 1127 – “Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship.” Form 1127, and its supporting documentation, should be filed as soon as you’re aware of taxes you owe or a tax deficiency you can’t pay without causing undue hardship.

 

Also, visit the IRS.gov for Form 9465 Installment Agreement Request. The IRS charges a fee to set up the installment agreement.

 

5. Don’t ignore letters or bills you receive from the IRS. Contact the IRS immediately if you receive letters or bills from them. Your situation will only get worse if you ignore bills or letters from the IRS. Additionally, IRS correspondence will provide instructions on what to do as well as what information they need from you. Contact your tax advisor or CPA if you have any questions.

 

Speak to your tax advisor if you have a problem with paying your taxes on time, need an installment or payment plan or have general questions about notices/letters you receive from the IRS. As a reminder Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Enrolled Agents and Lawyers are the only people who can represent taxpayers in front of the IRS. Just remember not to panic if you have a tax issue because help is only a quick email away!

 

About Ebong Eka

Ebong Eka is no stranger to the world of personal finance. As a certified public accountant and former professional basketball player he offers a fresh perspective to small business planning and executing. With over fifteen years of accounting, tax & small business experience with firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche and CohnReznick, Ebong provides practical money solutions tailored to the everyday person, the aspiring entrepreneur or the small business owner.

 

Ebong is the founder of EKAnomics, a sales, pricing and leadership firm. He is also the founder of Ericorp Consulting, Inc., a tax and management consulting firm. Ebong is the author of “Start Me Up! The-No-Business-Plan, Business Plan.

 

Web: www.ebongeka.com or Twitter: @EbongEka.

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Ebong Eka to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Ebong Eka is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Ebong Eka. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

          

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngThere may be no better source of finding out what will help you grow your business than your existing customers. Those who do business with you have a keen understanding of what works and what maybe doesn’t work so well.

 

Here are seven things you should ask your customers about immediately. Even though many will give you feedback without anything in return, you can use the opportunity to thank them by providing a discount, special offer or other small token of appreciation.

 

You can use a simple email form, website form or survey software to gather your information. Just make sure you review the results and act on the feedback afterwards!

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

1. Why do you shop or work with us?

You may think you know what your competitive advantages are and why your customers and clients choose your company over competitors, but perhaps they know a strength you are not emphasizing or they may highlight an employee you may not realize is a gem. Give them a blank to put in their answer and also have them choose key adjectives from a list that fits their “why” – such as convenience, customer service, high quality products, etc.

 

2. What do we do well?

This is another way of asking about strengths, but it also makes sure you double down on the reasons why your customers choose you.

 

3. What do you wish that we did differently or better?

This one is self-explanatory but extremely important. This will help identify deficiencies in your staff, operations and product/service offerings. It will not only ensure that you know where to focus to keep your existing customers, but it can provide ideas on what else you can do to make those customers buy more often.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: YOUR CONSUMER IS CHANGING AGAIN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARKETING TO GEN Z

 

25524437_s.jpg4. What are your favorite products and services?

While you can look at your sales reports to figure out what products and services are most popular, this question helps you identify if there are certain products/services that are cornerstones to your business. This may include ones that aren’t bought as frequently, but are critical keep your customers happy, as well as products/services that could be expanded or highlighted to gain more business.

 

 

5. What products and services do you wish we had?

By asking existing customers what else they want to buy from you, you have a built-in focus group. Keep track and alert those customers when you do add those products/services to your offering to target those who you know already desire that product/service.

 

 

6. How likely is it that you would recommend our company or brand to a friend or colleague?

This is a question that is asked on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the best) and makes up something called the Net Promoter Score. It’s a simplistic but widely-accepted method for determining customer loyalty. Per the Net Promoter Network, those who are 9s or 10s are loyal enthusiasts who will refer others. 7s or 8s are satisfied but not enthusiastic and are vulnerable to competitive offers; and 0s up through 6s are unhappy and can damage your brand via negative word of mouth. This gives you an opportunity to double down with your best customers and step it up with those who are vulnerable, including assuaging those who are not happy.

 

7. Will you recommend us/refer us/give us a testimonial?

Finally, having a concrete referral program or testimonial program allows you to specifically ask your customers to help get you more business. If you don’t ask, someone else will!

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngWhether your business is just getting started or is already established, growth is undoubtedly on your agenda.

 

Here are a dozen tips to help you focus on growing your business.

 

1. Focus on cash flow. Review your cash flow statement frequently to assess not only whether your business’s income is sufficient, but also where it comes from and where it goes. If your cash flow comes primarily from financing or investments rather than business operations, you may need to rethink your business model.

 

2. Target your marketing. Whether your business is B2C or B2B, it’s easier than ever to target a narrow customer niche thanks to digital marketing. Use pay-per-click advertising, social media and email to reach out to your specific target market with marketing messages tailored just for them.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

3. Listen to your customers. Pay attention to what customers say both to you and about you on social media. Conduct regular customer surveys by phone, email or online. Listening to customers’ feedback will alert you to problems that could cost you business. It will also spark new ideas that can attract more customers.

 

4. Do a SWOT analysis. Evaluate your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats facing it. Then figure out ways to capitalize on your business’s strengths and correct its weaknesses. Make a plan to profit from opportunities and protect your business from potential threats.

 

5. Invest in your business. It’s difficult to part with hard-earned cash, but being penny-wise and pound-foolish is a recipe for stagnation. No matter how tight your business budget is, set aside appropriate amounts for essential investments such as marketing your business and purchasing equipment. Measure the ROI to ensure you aren’t wasting money.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW THE GOVERNMENT’S MONTHLY RETAIL SALES REPORTS CAN BE USEFUL FOR YOUR BUSINESS

 

6. Explore new markets. Can you grow your business by adding a variation to a successful product line, targeting a new demographic for your existing products and services, or expanding into new geographic markets? Perhaps you can expand from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar, or vice versa. Doing market research helps you predict whether such a move will pay off.

 

44408886_s.jpg7. Market to your existing customers. New customers mean new business, but loyal customers can mean more business. Reach out to your existing customer base with special offers just for them. Implement a loyalty program that tracks their spending, helps you develop tailored promotions and encourages them to buy more.

 

8. Partner with other businesses. A strategic partnership with a complementary business can be a way to grow with a minimal investment of capital. Reach out to prospective partners to discuss how you can work together. This could range from sharing customer lists to developing a new product or service together or even forming a new business entity.

 

9. Ask for and use referrals. Develop a system to request referrals from customers soon after you complete their work or deliver their order. Use customer relationship management software to maintain information about referrals, including when you followed up and what the results were.

 

10. Keep your employees happy. Your employees are the foundation of your business, so treat them that way. Keep them loyal by offering competitive wages and benefits, professional development opportunities and a positive atmosphere. Arrangements that help with work-life balance, such as offering employees flexible hours or letting them work from home, help make your business a place people want to work.

 

11. Exploit technology. Is your business making the most of technology to save time, boost productivity and cut costs? If you don’t have an in-house IT expert to advise you, enlist an IT consultant to suggest ways that upgrading your technology can help your business grow.

 

12. Be prepared. You make plans for everything your business does—but do you have a backup plan? Whether it’s storing your critical data safely in the cloud, working with multiple vendors so you never run out of inventory, or having a strong relationship with a bank so you can quickly access capital when you need to, always have a Plan B.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                                                                                    

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngWhere do you see yourself in 5 years? It’s a time-worn question, but there’s a reason it’s heard so often. Looking to the future is an effective way to sharpen your focus on the preparations that need to be made in the here and now.

 

But what if we look 20 years into the future? Where do you see your small business two decades from now? What role will technology play in your company’s day-to-day operations, and how will that affect your business model?

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

Bank of America asked small business owners those very questions, and the newly released Small Business Owner Report details their responses. Overwhelmingly, entrepreneurs from every industry predicted major changes in the way they would be doing business 20 years from now. Here’s a look at their top 3 predictions.

 

1. Virtual Offices

Nearly half of respondents (49%) saw virtual offices as the wave of the future, with physical offices taking a back seat. And with good reason – already today, a growing number of small businesses are taking advantage of the benefits a virtual workplace provides. Besides the obvious cost savings, virtual offices allow companies to hire the best talent available, regardless of their location, and studies have shown again and again that remote workers are actually more productive than in-office workers – not to mention happier.

 

2. Automation

A significant amount of business operations would be handled via automation in the future, believed 42% of small business owners. This is already a trend we see everywhere today, in areas ranging from automated marketing apps to automation in enterprise resource planning, and with the rise of AI tech, such as IBM’s Watson, it’s bound to be a major factor in business operations by the time 2037 rolls around.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THREE IDEAS FOR WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS TO HELP OTHERS FOLLOW THEIR PATH

 

3. Going Paperless

How many bills do you still receive as physical letters in the mail? If you’re like many Americans, the answer is not many. Going paperless is a popular choice among consumers, and increasingly, among businesses, as well. With the advent of cloud storage and even backup- and disaster recovery-as-a-service, 42% of respondents said there’s no need to keep hard copies of most files anymore. Virtual files can be stored more securely and are easily accessed – and as a bonus, the environment stands to benefit, too.

 

61073755_s.jpgOne interesting point to note, however, is the fact that most small business owners surveyed did not think that this future was inevitable. A whopping 75% agreed that encouraging innovation in the workplace was a priority in order to bring businesses into this brave new world. And in fact, 77% felt strongly that this would be a key contributor to future business success.

 

So where do these small business owners see themselves in 20 years? Saving time and money while boosting productivity by working from home, taking advantage of automation, and going paperless. And they’re not waiting around for the future to come to them – they’re actively pursuing it, encouraging a culture of innovation in their companies. So now the only question is: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? And what are you going to do to get there?   

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.        

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngAsk most small business owners about who they think are their most trusted advisors and you may hear about their lawyer or accountant. However, one of the most valuable resources for any small business owner is a business banker.

 

Forging a strong relationship with a banker can be a huge benefit for entrepreneurs. Yet, not enough business owners do that early enough. Moreover, many don’t take full advantage of the relationship.

 

Here are four ways you will get more from building a relationship with a small business banker.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

1.     Go early

Many business owners wait to establish a relationship until they need debt capital, but this is a mistake. Creating a relationship with a business banker early will help your business before you have those capital needs.

 

First, your banker can provide introductions to key advisors, vendors or even potential customers that can help your business.

Second, your banker can get to know you and your business needs in your early stages so by the time you need them, you have already built a personal relationship.

 

Third, as most businesses need to have been in business for a couple of years and have revenue and key financial metrics to qualify for a small business loan, you may still have other capital needs. Your small business banker can point you in the direction of local equity sources or other potential early-stage sources of capital.

 

If you aren’t sure what other kinds of assistance your business banker can provide, just ask the question. You will find that your banker will likely become one of your most helpful and trusted advisors.

 

2.     Get your information organized

When you are ready to discuss your business’s financial picture with a business banker, be prepared. There is nothing more horrifying to a banker than a business owner that pulls out a shoebox full of papers that haven’t been organized. You need to have a business plan, historical financial statements (such as an income statement and balance sheet) and depending on the size of your business, personal information if you need to personally secure the loan.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE MAGIC OF CREATING MULTIPLE PROFIT CENTERS

 

Take the time to prepare so that you make the right impression when you finally are ready for a line of credit or other bank product. If you need more guidance on what to prepare, your business banker can provide you with a checklist, but make sure to do the work ahead of time.

39307494_s.jpg

 

3.     Have a plan

As noted in the previous tip, you will need to have a business plan. I always say that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Businesses that prepare business plans are statistically more successful than those that do not, so make sure that you take the time to prepare a thorough plan – and update the plan as your business changes.

 

Your business banker can help you make key strategic decisions by letting you know if having too much customer concentration, working in certain industries or other decisions could impact your business success and ability to attract capital.

 

Make sure the plan you bring to your banker has been updated and accurately reflects the current reality and projected state of your business.

 

4.     Negotiate!

One thing that many business owners don’t know is they have room to negotiate when it comes time to getting loans from their business banker. You can talk to your banker to set the amount of your borrowing, as well as interest rates, length of the loan and the basis on which interest will be calculated. Don’t be afraid of doing some wheeling and dealing to come up with the best terms for you and your business.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Shama Hyder Headshot.pngWhen you’re getting ready to make a big purchase or sign up for a service, what’s the first thing you do?

 

You check out your options online, of course.

 

First, you likely check to see who the players are in the industry you’re looking at. Next, you might visit company websites, blogs, and social media pages to get a feel for which ones would be the best fit. Then, you look at reviews to narrow down the field even further.

 

And what is it exactly that you’re looking for as you do your research? A company that provides what you need, within your budget.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

But if that still leaves you with a choice, then what is the deciding factor for you? Whether it’s a Yelp page full of rave reviews or a truly authentic blog that gives insider peeks at the company culture, the key to attracting customers in the digital age is projecting transparency and earning trust.

 

Anyone can create a professional-looking website, and today it’s almost a given that a company’s blog and social media pages will be full of informative posts. The real differentiator is a digital marketing strategy that places a high value on making sure consumers feel they can trust your brand, through transparency and social proof.

 

Here are 3 important elements to incorporate into your strategy to ensure that consumers choose your business every time.

 

1. Authentic Behind-the-Scenes Content

Of course, you’ve got to provide information about your products or services on your website – but don’t stop there. Consumers don’t want to do business with a faceless company hiding behind the polished façade of their site; they want to feel a personal connection with the real people behind the brand in order to trust them enough to buy from them.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: AVOID THE 5 COMMON DIGITAL MARKETING MISTAKES YOU MIGHT BE MAKING

 

In order to give people that feeling of connectedness, trust and transparency, you’ve got to open up and let them see behind the curtain. Share your company manifesto in your blog. Tell the story of why and how you got into this business in an informal Facebook Live video. Post pictures of your employees goofing off on Instagram. The more consumers feel that they know the real you, the more they’ll trust you.

 

66068892_s.jpg2. Influencer Backup

Social proof is one of the most effective marketing tactics – because everyone believes word-of-mouth advertising over what a company says about itself. That’s why reviews on an independent site like Yelp are so powerful – you know they’re from real people and haven’t been edited. But it’s even more effective when a well-known online industry influencer, someone who is considered an expert in the field and already has consumers’ trust and respect, gives your company a good review.

 

By recruiting influencers to your cause, you earn instant trust for your brand among their followers. Find the influencers your target audience follows, and reach out to them to see if they’d be willing to partner with you. Maybe they can write a blog post reviewing your product or service in exchange for some freebies, or maybe they can hold a giveaway on Facebook in exchange for pay. It’s worth every penny, because the ROI is substantial.  

 

3. Radical Transparency

Unfortunately, as much as we might like them to be, people and companies aren’t perfect. There will inevitably be times when a customer has a bad experience and then posts a negative review. But although the natural instinct is to want to delete or contest anything negative, in today’s digital climate, that can hurt more than help.

 

Instead of rushing to disavow negative comments, rush to apologize and make it right. Demonstrate publicly how your company handles less-than-stellar customer experiences, and you’ll not only improve the situation with that one customer – you’ll be attracting new customers with your openness, honesty, and willingness to fix mistakes rather than cover them up.

 

By taking every opportunity to showcase the real people behind your company in an authentic way, working with trusted influencers to show their followers that you can be trusted, too, and being completely transparent, even when it comes to negative reviews and comments, you’ll be creating an online presence that allows consumers to feel they can trust your brand. And that, more often than not, leads directly to a customer relationship that lasts.      

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngWho do you think is happier at work? Worker A works for a fine company with a decent salary and modest benefits package. He has a normal job with standard duties and much predictability. His employers expect him to work about 40 hours a week, and he does, but there is little creativity or room for upward mobility in his position.

 

Worker B owns her own business and in the process, has created a demanding job for herself. Her flexible schedule necessitates that she works long hours – definitely more than 40 per week – and she often finds herself working at night and on weekends. Sometimes she even has nightmares about her business failing.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that our entrepreneur, worker B, actually feels quite fulfilled with her choice and work (and I think it is safe to say that the employee likely feels pretty stifled). In fact, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, entrepreneurs generally state that they find their work:

 

  • “Fulfilling”
  • “Enjoyable”
  • “Interesting”

 

Those are some strong adjectives.

 

Maybe even most interesting is  while these entrepreneurs clearly work long hours, the ever-elusive work-life balance doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them.

 

Why is that?

 

22815177_s.jpgIn my opinion,  the answer is that for many small business owners, work doesn’t much feel like work. It feels more like passion. Oh, sure, they work hard – Worker B works way harder than Worker A – but because it is their own work, based on their own vision, passion, values and schedule. It seems less like work and more like a vocation.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE EASE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOING GREEN

 

This is not to say that their work isn’t difficult and challenging. When asked to describe their experience as a small business owner, 47% said that it is “demanding”.  Almost a third (30%) used the word “stressful” to describe their job. And yes, a quarter even had nightmares about their business failing. Despite this, most small business owners also said they have little issue with their work-life balance, even though they work a lot. How long are the hours? Pretty long! More than three in five said that they work more than 40 hours per week, and more than 75% of respondents, stated that their work interferes with their home life.

 

And even so, consider these surprising statistics from the Report:

 

  • Business owners are more likely to report that they have achieved a work-life balance (82%)
  • 80% said they are “satisfied” with the number of hours they work, and
  • Almost all report that they love the flexibility and schedule that being self-employed offers them

 

So, what can we make of all of this? Clearly, small business owners are of a different breed, a breed that values creativity, flexibility, and hard work above regularity, predictability, and ease.

 

And yes, they love their work.

 

In fact, that seems to be the bottom line, the X factor in all of this. When you love something, it is difficult to see it as getting in the way of other things, even if one of those other things is time off. That is why Worker B, the entrepreneur, is the more fulfilled of our two hypothetical workers. She does work that is demanding, yes, but also fulfilling. Worker A has work that is neither demanding nor fulfilling. So, what should he do? Perhaps start his own business.

 

 


 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Carol Roth Headshot.pngWith unemployment holding steady and workforce participation rates historically low, retaining employees is top of mind for businesses of all sizes but particularly for small business owners.

 

Economic confidence ranks among the highest levels recorded in the last five years for small businesses. In fact, according to the Spring 2017 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report released today, a majority of entrepreneurs (52 percent) are confident that the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – up a staggering 21 percentage points from just six months ago (31 percent in fall 2016).

 

This increase in optimism, however, has yet to translate into positive movement on revenue expectations. This may explain why small business owners’ plans to hire have dipped, according to the Small Business Owner Report. Only 18 percent of small business owners plan to hire in the year ahead, down 7 percentage points from the fall 2016 report.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

Instead, this spring, more entrepreneurs say they are focused on retaining existing employees (73 percent). So, given this backdrop, how can your business make sure that you are retaining your best employees?  Here are some of my best tips:

 

Get buy-in on your mission.

Having something that the team is working for together, other than just their paycheck, makes employees feel more important and fulfilled. Make sure that you have communicated what your mission is and have gotten buy-in from your employees, so they know the big picture and feel good about doing the work.

 

Listen to them.

In almost every survey about what is important to employees, having their ideas, feedback and perspective heard ranks higher than compensation. When you welcome and act on employee ideas and suggestions, your employees become partners who recognize their value to the company as they work alongside you to realize shared goals.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO REPLACE YOURSELF AS CEO OF YOUR SMALL BUSINESS

 

Make sure to listen to their feedback and acknowledge them as well – the value of these soft incentives is highly underrated and easy for small business owners to embrace.

 

71473407_s.jpgMake them heroes.

A job well done deserves praise and your employees never mind being called to your office to receive kudos. But, when employees receive your commendations at a company meeting or in front of a customer who benefited from their hard work, they clearly see their true value. Naturally, public praise helps inspire all employees but it also lets your customers recognize how the depth of your products and services helps them get the attention and consideration they deserve.

 

Give them flexibility.

These days, flexibility is almost priceless to employees in terms of a benefit, while not costing you dollars out of pocket. Flexibility could range from working remotely – including from home, working non-standard business hours (I have one employee who prefers to start the workday at noon and work into the evening), having a “get work done but not keeping track of hours” schedule and more.

 

If you can be flexible, you can add a lot of value to employees who won’t be able to find that valuable benefit elsewhere.

 

Give them new opportunities.

While big businesses need to put their employees in specific boxes and keep them there to get their allotted portion of the job done, small business owners have more flexibility to let their team members wear more hats. Employees can feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment if you allow them to be more involved in different stages of a project or the business overall. As their abilities grow from new experiences, their investment in the company’s interests will grow, as well.

 

Also, make sure to promote from within. When a key position opens up in your company, always look first to the members of the team that work hard for you every day. Granted, some positions may require very specific educational requirements not available in your organization, such as a degree in accounting.  But remember your staff already has a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of your company culture and how things work. You can’t teach loyalty and dedication, and these traits grow more when you reward staff with advancement.

 

Give a bonus for overall performance.

While it is important to reward individuals for their own accomplishments, don’t forget to keep them focused on the team and the big picture. If the company does well, allow them to participate in that success. This can be a cash bonus or even an outing to see a local sports team play. Having them incented on an individual and company level creates even more loyalty to your business and its efforts.

As a small business, your team is a critical part of your success, so make sure to implement these tips –  along with regularly checking in with your employees to make sure that they are happy so they stay and grow with you.

 

Click here to read the spring 2017 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report report.

 

 


 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth.

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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