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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

Small Business Confidence in the Economy Jumps 22 Percent in Six Months

Revenue Outlook and Intent to Borrow Remain Flat, while Hiring Plans Sink to Five-year Low

 

Yoobi Video

U.S. small business owners’ confidence in the economy has increased significantly from just six months ago, according to the spring 2017 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report, which found that economic confidence ranks among the highest levels recorded in the last five years. The report, based on a semi-annual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country, reveals that a majority of entrepreneurs (53 percent) are confident the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – up a staggering 22 percentage points from just six months ago. Similarly, small business owners’ confidence in their local economy improving jumped to 51 percent from 37 percent in fall 2016.

 

For additional insights, see the Small Business Owner Report infographic below.  For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, download the spring 2017 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report here.

Spring-2017-Small-Business-Owner-Infographic.gif

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngAs I’m sure you’ve heard, attracting millennial customers is key to continued business success. The increasing purchasing power of this generation, plus their life stage as young adults and young parents, makes them a valuable demographic. But once you've got those millennial shoppers in the door, how can you keep them coming back?

 

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


Here are six ways you can turn millennials into repeat customers.

 

1. Be consistent. Your digital and physical presence need to provide the same experience and ease-of-use. Whether you sell products on your business website or not, millennials expect a seamless transition as they switch from looking at your website on a smartphone or tablet to looking at it on a desktop to visiting your store. If your store is having a sale, mention it on your website. If your website says you have a product, it better be in stock. Disappointing or frustrating millennial customers is the surest way to lose their business.

 

2. Offer expertise. Millennial shoppers have a world of information at their fingertips, so when they visit your store, they expect your sales team to be just as knowledgeable. Forty percent of millennials say “deep product knowledge” is important to them when visiting a store, PwC reports. Your employees should be able to answer in-depth questions about products, provide recommendations and suggest complementary purchases. Another option PwC suggests: Consider putting your store employees on different tracks. For example, you can train some employees to focus on maintaining the stockroom and handling inventory, and others to focus on customer service and developing deep expertise.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

3. Reward your social media followers. Millennials won’t follow your store on social media just because they think you’re cool. Instead, they expect to get something out of the relationship. Exclusive access to deals, coupons or information are key reasons millennials follow retailers on social media, a survey by Accenture reports. When millennial shoppers are in-store, you can encourage them to follow you on social media by explaining the rewards they’ll get.

 

43059118_s.jpg4. Get personal with promotions. If you want millennials to become loyal retail customers, you’ve got to offer them personalized, targeted promotions and discounts, Accenture reports. A whopping 95 percent of millennials in that survey say they want retailers to “court them actively.” Coupons sent by email or (surprise!) mailed to their homes are the most effective promotional tool for this age group.

 

5. Use a loyalty marketing program. Paper or plastic loyalty cards won’t cut it with millennials. At last year’s Microsoft Envision conference, a panel of millennials expressed disdain for these “primitive” methods. The panel agreed they wouldn’t even be willing to carry a small, plastic keychain card to participate in a loyalty program. Fortunately, there are plenty of digital loyalty programs suited for small retailers; Belly, Loyalzoo and Perkaare just a few. These loyalty programs go far beyond the old “buy 10, get one free” model of yesterday. They enable you to capture all kinds of data about your shoppers, what they buy and what promotions they respond to. They also make it easy to create customized marketing messages that resonate with individual customers.

 

6. Think mobile. Speaking of customized marketing messages, one good way to reach out to millennial shoppers is via mobile. Most (85 percent) want to get mobile messages from retailers while they’re in-store, reports Chain Store Age. This age group is also more likely than others to accept personalized messages based on their past online behaviors. You can use mobile marketing to text offers to customers when they enter your store or get within a certain radius of it.

 

Adjusting your customer retention methods to focus on millennials is a smart move. Not only is this generation growing in influence, they’re influencing how their parents shop as well.

 


 

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

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngThis will not come as a surprise, but if you want to succeed as a retailer, you must have what customers want when they want it, without having to stock up on excess inventory. To help you make smarter decisions in your retail business check out the retail and economic information available from the U.S. government.

 

Around the second week of every month, the government releases monthly retail sales reports for the previous month. What kind of information do these reports contain, and how can you use it to benefit your store?

 

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

What’s Included

The Census Bureau conducts the Retail Sales Report by surveying about 4,900 retailers ranging from multinationals to small, independent stores, including food service and automotive-related businesses.

 

The Retail Sales Report estimates sales for all retail businesses in each month, as well as the percentage change in sales from the previous month. Sales are further broken down into detailed types of retail businesses, such as furniture/home furnishing stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores and more. View retail sales reports.

 

What It Means for You

Because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. GDP, the Retail Sales Report is an important indicator of the nation’s current economic health. By showing a snapshot of Americans’ discretionary spending habits, it can indicate whether consumers are feeling confident or cautious, which can ultimately give you insights into your consumers’ behavior.

 

Investors and financial services businesses use the Retail Sales Report to watch for signs of inflation and recession. If retail sales jump suddenly, it can warn of impending inflation. If retail sales dip or stagnate, it could indicate a coming recession.

 

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How to Use It

If the idea of poring over Retail Sales Report charts and tables gives you a headache, you’re not alone. For small business owners, reading the Retail Sales Report can be more confusing than helpful. For one thing, the government revises each month’s report several months after issuing it, so data can change dramatically. Since the Census Bureau doesn’t adjust monthly figures for inflation, volatile gas and food prices can make it look like retail sales are soaring or plunging.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE ONGOING DEBATE: SHOULD YOU FOCUS ON WINNING NEW CUSTOMERS OR RETAINING LOYAL CUSTOMERS?

 

To get more value from the Retail Sales Report:

  • Watch a wide range of economic indicators. For retailers, these include the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s data on consumer spending, The Conference Board’s monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, and the monthly Census reports on shipments and orders of durable goods. (Durable goods are major purchases that last over three years; strong sales of consumer durable goods, which include autos and major appliances, signal confidence in the economy.) government's economic indicators here.
  • Use The National Retail Federation (NRF) resources. The NRF publishes retail data and projections for specific holidays, such as Easter or Mother's Day, and seasons, such as back-to-school and the holiday shopping season.
  • Focus on longer-term trends and predictions. Year-over-year trends or quarterly trends are a better indicator for retailers than month-to-month trends. Also, pay attention to whether figures are in line with experts’ predictions or sharply diverge.
  • Look to the experts. Instead of trying to interpret government reports yourself, read analysis of economic indicators in a trusted retail industry or business publication. Analysts can slice and dice the information in useful ways. For example, they’ll pull out specific retail categories and even individual retailers that are strong or weak, which can give you a heads-up on important trends. Currently, weak department store sales reflect Americans’ decreasing interest in stores that “sell it all,” while niche retailer Ulta Beauty is on the upswing because consumers prefer specialty stores.

 


 

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.pngWith Earth Day coming up, and the Paris Accords in the news, it’s a good time to think a bit about what we can each do in our respective businesses to make the world a little bit better, a little greener.

 

The problem is that many believe their own individual ecological efforts, especially when compared to the scope of the problem, can be pretty minuscule and inconsequential. If that describes you, there are two points to consider:

  1. Remember that individual actions do add up. That is how things change in all areas of life and business.
  2. Because businesses have a larger ecological footprint than individuals, business owners can have an even bigger impact.

 

The good news is that becoming more environmentally friendly makes you green in two great ways. First, greening your business helps green the planet, and second, greening your business also can help generate more green.

 

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

 

Sustainability is both good business and good for business, as it turns out.

 

Here are some of my top reasons and ways for businesses to go green:

 

Cost savings: Here are just a few of the things you can do to do your part:

  • Make re-using and recycling easy by having recycling bins available throughout the office
  • Go paperless to the extent you can
  • When buying new technology, purchase Energy Star certified goods
  • Install power timers so that equipment and lights go off at night
  • Encourage employees to take public transit or bikes to work
  • Ban plastic water bottles and offer filtered water instead so that employees can refill their water bottles at work

 

Little changes can create big results.

 

11897666_s.jpgHealthier work environment: If you choose to go green by offering organic food instead of junk food, you are directly promoting the personal physical health of your employees, which can lead to better moods and fewer sick days. Using environmentally friendly cleaning products is also excellent for the health of your employees. In fact, according to the Green Business Bureau, there is a 20 percent decrease in number of sick days for companies that actively promote a healthier workplace.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: GREAT ENTREPRENEURS START SMALL – CONSIDER HOWARD, RAY AND AMADEO

 

It’s good for morale: An ethical and sustainable work environment is increasingly becoming one of the most important requirements for young professionals. These in-demand millennials appreciate your efforts.  Consider creating a green suggestion box for instance. By offering a prize for the best ideas, you will really get some good ones as well as some happy, loyal employees.

 

Tax benefits: Some states offer tax credits for businesses that go green. For example, in Florida, businesses who either use solar energy or produce electricity from renewable energy facilities are eligible for special tax deductions. Using hybrid cars and wind energy can also be tax deductible.

 

Good customer relations: Another way to make a difference is to encourage your customers to be greener. For instance, you can

  • Offer green products. Adding green products to your inventory mix is easy and affordable and customers will love that they have that choice.
  • Offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable shopping bags.
  • Finally, consider matching donations (up to a certain limit) made by customers to the environmental charity of their choice. This would not only burnish your green credentials, but would be a nice tax write-off to boot.

 

Good PR: Being able to advertise all the things your business does to be green is very attractive to many consumers. This can actually grow your customer base, since the sharp increase in public environmental consciousness has created a growing desire to patronize environmentally friendly businesses.

 

By being a more environmentally-friendly business, you can make yourself stand out against the crowd. Planetary green looks very good against corporate beige.

 


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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngMy worst boss ever once threatened to put his cigarette out on my forehead.

 

Let’s just say he wasn’t what you’d call a great leader (although, irony of ironies, we worked for a leadership development company).

 

Yes, we have all had really, really bad bosses at some point in our life. You know the type: Bosses who schedule you on days you can’t work, who berate you, who are unorganized, who take credit for your work, who don’t communicate well, assign you massive projects with very little time, make you work late, etc. The list goes on and on.

 

It is no fun to work for a bad boss.

 

While bad boss stories make great fodder for stories at parties, tales among friends or intros to blogs, in the actual workplace, bad leadership is no joke. Every team needs a leader, and this is especially true in small business, where so much depends upon the style, vision and abilities of the leader/owner.

 

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

 

So what makes for a good small business leader? It is not enough for a leader to be not terrible. A good leader should make you feel comfortable and at ease, excited and inspired. A good leader should not be okay with sticking with the same-old, same-old. The leader should be constantly looking for new ways to lead and engage, to discover and invent.

 

Although it is difficult to boil it down to a sentence or a definition, there certainly are traits that all great small business leaders share:

 

Passion: Entrepreneurs start businesses because they are passionate about an idea. But great entrepreneurs become great leaders when they enroll other people in that vision. Getting people excited about the business is fundamental to being a team leader. It is the passionate leader who is a great leader; their dedication to the goal shines through and percolates into all of their interactions and decisions. That type of passion is infectious.

 

RELATED STORY: REMOTE WORKERS ARE HAPPY WORKERS: MY TIPS FOR MAKING SMART HIRES

 

Excellent communication skills: Good leadership means making a habit of asking your employees how they’re feeling, what they are thinking, what’s working, what’s not, and what they need help with. It means sharing the vision. It also means listening.

 

Playing fair: A bad boss is the one who always seems to be on a power trip, using their title to justify their bad behavior or poor decision making. Great bosses and great small business leaders inspire confidence because they have little interest in their own ego, and are much more focused on making sure that the team succeeds. For this boss, the welfare of the company is much more important than their own pride.

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Positive attitude: A great leader inspires those around him or her with his or her positivity. Their belief in a better future, in the mission, vision and business, enables others to dream and think big too.

 

Creativity: A small business leader must be adaptable and creative, especially because there is often a shortage of money or time. Some of their new ideas work, others don’t, but that doesn’t stop them.

 

Integrity: Last but certainly not least, a great leader must have integrity within himself and those around him. It is through hard work, dedication, vision, honesty, and smarts that the leader leads effectively.

 

Walking the talk creates the context for excellence, and that truly is what makes for a great small business leader. (And let’s just say that it helps if they don’t want to use your head for an ashtray!)

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngPeople start their own businesses for all sorts of reasons – money, boredom, fear, freedom, inspiration – you name it. But whatever the reason, one thing all entrepreneurs have in common is that they want to succeed - to create a business that grows.

 

A common fear people have is they look at the entrepreneurial success stories of folks like Richard Branson (Virgin) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and they somehow think they started out successful.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Indeed, what gets lost sometimes is that every business starts small, very small. And then, somehow, be it sheer force of will, good luck, a great idea, timing, or a combination, some entrepreneurs break away from the pack and end up growing very big ventures. It happens all the time.

 

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

 

Consider Howard Schultz and Starbucks. Of course, these days Starbucks is ubiquitous, a behemoth, but it sure wasn’t when Schultz first happened upon it. In 1979, Schultz was an employee of a Swedish coffee maker company. One of his customers was a small coffee bean company with a few shops located in and around Seattle called Starbucks. Schultz loved the potential of the little company, so much in fact, that within a year he got himself hired as Starbucks Director of Marketing.

 

It was on a buying trip in Milan, Italy when Howard Schultz had the epiphany that changed both his life – and how you drink coffee. Schultz noticed that dripped espresso bars were everywhere, and served as de-facto community spots. Upon his return, he tried to get the owners of Starbucks to buy into this vision for the company (at the time, Starbucks only sold beans and machines, not drip coffee). 

 

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

 

Schultz’s vision was so clear, and overwhelming, that he eventually bought the fledgling company from the owners and, as they say, the rest is history. But the overall point is important – Howard Schultz started out as an employee whose vision created a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

 

47375852_l.jpgRay Kroc’s story is similar. Ray was a milkshake mixer salesman in his mid-50’s when he called on two brothers, customers of his whose diner blew him away. The single restaurant they ran was unlike anything Ray had ever seen before – clean, fast, efficient, and profitable. He had to be part of it.

 

Like Howard Schultz, Ray had a giant vision for a business that was not his. And like Schultz, he didn’t let that stop him. And he too got himself hired by the then-owners, he too was thwarted, and yes, he too eventually bought out the owners. The parallels are eerie.

 

McDonald’s also became ubiquitous after Ray Kroc entered the scene.

 

Or consider the story of Amadeo Pietro Giannini. In 1904, Giannini started a small bank called the Bank of Italy, located in San Francisco. The bank served the needs of the immigrant community that was often ignored. Giannini got his big break in 1906 when, after the San Francisco earthquake leveled most of the city, he got his customers’ deposits out of his building and saved them from the fire that engulfed the city. Covering two barrels with a few planks, he set up shop on Market Street and began to lend money to residents looking to rebuild their beloved city.

 

And that, my friends, is how Bank of America started.

 

So, bravo to you, my entrepreneurial friend, even if all you have is a big idea. History proves, when combined with a big heart, a big work ethic, and a drive to succeed, it’s a compelling combination that often leads to huge entrepreneurial success.

 

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

Ebong Eka Headshot.pngThe Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, provides affordable health insurance across the U.S. through subsidies to consumers as well as offering tax credits to small businesses.

 

Even though the Trump Administration seeks to repeal and replace the ACA, it will take time for the political process to occur. Thus, there is still an opportunity for your small business to benefit from the tax deductions or credits for the 2016 tax return year.

 

What’s the difference between a Deduction and a Credit?

 

Before we go into how the ACA affects your small business, let me be clear on the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction. A tax credit directly reduces your tax liability. For example, if you owed $1,000 in taxes to the IRS and received a $500 tax credit, you would only have to pay $500. Tax credits are dollar-for-dollar reductions in your tax liability.

 

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

 

A tax deduction is different because it indirectly reduces your tax liability by reducing (through increasing) the expenses used to arrive at income. I've always told clients that having or receiving a tax credit is always better and more lucrative than having a tax deduction. Please speak to your tax advisor for what works specifically for you.

 

Do you qualify for ACA tax credit?

 

As a small business owner, you may be eligible for the small business healthcare tax credit if you meet the following conditions:

 

  1. You cover at least 50% or more of your employees' insurance premium costs;
  2. You must have fewer than 25 full-time employees;
  3. Your full-time employees' annual wages are less than $52,000 each in the 2016 tax year. Your credit may be limited or phased out if wages are higher;
  4. You must purchase health insurance coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace.

 

Finally, here's a shared responsibility payment notice: If you have fewer than 50 full-time employees including full time and equivalent employees, i.e., you have two part-time employees who split a full- time job, you're not subject to the employer's shared responsibility provisions. If you employ fewer people, you have other incentives as well.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE TOP 7 TAX SCAMS OF 2017 YOU MUST AVOID

 

How much of a difference does the tax credit make for your business?

 

32147912_l.jpgFor tax years beginning in 2014 or later, the maximum credit increased to 50% of premiums paid for small business employers and 35% of premiums paid for small tax-exempt employers. Additionally, the credit is available to eligible employers for two consecutive taxable years.

 

For example, if you pay $50,000 a year toward employees’ health care premiums — and if you qualify for a 50% credit, you save $25,000 per year. Imagine what you can do for your business with that money!

 

Tax credits are advantageous because they help you save money on taxes which you can use to hire more employees or purchase more equipment. 

 

Regardless of where you sit politically, if you are a small business owner, there's a great opportunity for you to save money on your taxes by way of the small business healthcare tax credit.


Speak with your tax advisor about your eligibility for the tax credit and how much may be available to you before the ACA is repealed and/or replaced.

 

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

Small business expert Carol Roth shares her biggest piece of advice for female entrepreneurs and asks a question that’s crucial to business growth.

 

 

If you have questions for Carol, please scroll down and ask in the comment below.  Carol will do her best to respond.

 

 


 

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.pngIf you happen to take a stroll around Manhattan anytime this month, you might just notice that a new neighbor has taken up temporary residence next to the famous Wall Street bull statue – a bronze statue of a little girl, hands on hips, standing strong as the wind whips her hair and dress while she defiantly faces down that bull.

 

Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors - the third largest asset manager in the world - this little statue carries a weighty message to the companies held in its index funds and beyond: Put more women on your boards, or your place in our funds will be at risk.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

With so many company boardrooms being dominated by all male or mostly male boards, this message could open up a myriad of opportunities for the women who are well-positioned to take their places in those leather chairs.

 

Women already in positions of leadership should work to keep this positive momentum going, and help to inspire both the women currently in the workforce and the next generation of women, to continue to reach for these new heights.

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Here are three concrete ways you can make a tangible difference in the advancement of women, too.

 

1. Mentor someone. As you worked your way up into a leadership position, there was most likely someone who helped you on your way— through encouragement, advice or simply by example. Be that person for someone else. Find a go-getter in your company or an ambitious young woman still in school, let them know you see their passion, and give them tips from your experience to help them on their way. You could even join a formal mentoring group to be matched with someone for a more structured give and take – or start one within your own company! That personalized attention and support can mean the world to a woman determined to make it to the top.    

 

2. Share your story. Stories fire up the imagination and there’s nothing more inspiring and energizing than hearing the story of someone just like you who overcame the odds and reached the same goal you’re striving for. Call local high schools and colleges and offer to speak to groups of young women…join local women’s business organizations and volunteer to give talks…you could even sign up to speak at major national women’s conferences.  By sharing your own success story with other women, you’ll be letting them know it’s possible and giving them a guide to success they can tweak to fit their own situations.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: FAMILY, COMMUNITY GROW HISPANIC SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM

 

3. Sponsor school events. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship and business leadership are not subjects taught very often in schools. But you can help to remedy that by contacting your local middle and high schools and offering to sponsor a girls’ business leadership workshop. Host a group of specially chosen girls in your offices, invite speakers, and let them do some hands-on activities to spark that passion and get them thinking about all the possibilities open to them. Being a part of such a unique program is certain to place those girls firmly on a path to leadership.

   

As women business leaders, we lead incredibly busy lives. But by taking just a little time every so often to give back and offer a helping hand to those women just beginning to climb the ladder, we’ll be making a difference not just in their lives, but also in our society. 

 

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

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.pngFor whatever reason, we’ve all experienced an unhappy customer. While this can be a frustrating experience, I’m here to tell you it’s not only possible to defuse angry customers, but you can turn them into raving fans of your small business.

 

Here are my top 10 tips:

 

1. Put your ego aside. When faced with conflict, it’s human nature to become defensive or angry in response. You need to put these urges aside and focus on the customer’s feelings, not your own.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Let the customer vent. Most angry people just want to be heard. Like a boiling kettle, your customer needs to let off steam—if you get in the way, you’ll get burned. 

 

3. Listen actively. While the customer vents, pay attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in response, interrupt or offer solutions (yet). Try to understand why the customer is so upset and what feelings are behind the anger.

 

4. Clarify the reason the customer is angry. Paraphrase what he or she said and ask if you’re understanding correctly. Repeat, if necessary, until you get it right.

 

5. Apologize for the problem. Don’t just say “I’m sorry”—be empathetic. “I’m so sorry the gift you ordered for your daughter didn’t arrive on time. That must have disappointed you and the birthday girl.” 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 FRESH WAYS TO BOOST YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

 

6. Take ownership of the problem. Tell the customer you will personally make sure the issue is resolved. Coming from the business owner, this means a lot and often diffuses the situation.

 

7. Suggest a solution and get the customer’s buy-in. To give the customer some control of the situation, present a solution and ask if that would work for her. Or offer two options and ask the customer which she would prefer.

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8. Solve the problem as quickly as possible. Often, you can do this on the spot; other times, it may take longer. For problems that require more time, keep the customer updated about progress so they don’t feel forgotten. 

 

9. Go above and beyond solving the problem. Customers will be satisfied if you fix the problem, but they won’t be thrilled enough to become raving fans. To get them there consider offering a discount, additional service, free gift or other item of value at the same time you resolve the issue. Better yet, offer something the customer can share with friends. “I’m so sorry you weren’t happy with your steak. We’ll bring you another one on the house. Also, please accept this gift certificate for two free entrees. We hope you’ll come back to visit us again.”

 

10. Follow up a week after resolving the problem. “Hi, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m calling to make sure the replacement part we installed last week is working properly for you.” This shows the customer that their problem isn’t “out of sight, out of mind” and that you care about them in the long term.

 

Diffusing an angry online confrontation is more challenging, since you can’t “read” a person’s body language or tone of voice. Ask the customer to “go offline” and talk by phone; then follow the steps above.

 

Afterwards, go online to update others on how the issue was resolved. If the customer wrote a negative review, post a response explaining what you did, or ask the customer if he’d like to do so. After you’ve gone above and beyond to make them happy, most customers will revise the review on their own.

 

If the issue is an ongoing problem rather than a one-off, be sure to thank the customer for bringing it to your attention, and tell them what action you’re taking going forward. “Thank you for letting us know our technician didn’t get your approval before performing the work. We’ve talked to all our technicians and changed our system so this won’t happen again.” 

 

Listening to customers and treating them with respect helps turn ranters into raving fans.

 

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.pngThe first time I walked into my mother-in-law’s home, I saw a sign that read, “Mi casa es su casa,” meaning in English “my home is your home.” And boy, that was the truth. Irene was a wonderful woman who made everyone feel special. Her outlook on life is that family always came first and hard work was expected. She’s strong, devoted, smart, funny, loyal and she passed her values down to her kids, including my wife Maria.

 

When I met my wife, she was a single mom who had just started her own small business. She worked incredibly hard and was 100% committed to her daughter, her family, and her business. She was (and is!) an enthusiastic whirlwind.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

She is not alone. I was not surprised, indeed was heartened, when I was able to review a sneak peek of the inaugural Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Spotlight. The Spotlight surveyed 348 Hispanic small business owners from across the country on a range of issues and tells a story of business ownership not unlike my wife and not unlike her mom.

 

It tells a story of confidence, commitment, and community.

 

Not only are Hispanic entrepreneurs one of the fastest growing segments of all small businesses, they are also among the most optimistic. According to the Spotlight:

 

  • 71% of the Hispanic business owners surveyed expect their revenue to increase in 2017
  • 76% plan on growing their business over the next five years, and
  • More than half plan on hiring new staff this year

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Like all small business owners, Hispanic entrepreneurs are concerned about a wide range of business issues. Twenty-three percent say achieving work-life balance is a top challenge, 19% report finding qualified employees to be their biggest concern, and 11% find day-to-day operations to be their biggest issue.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY YOU NEED A BUSINESS PARTNER

 

But one place where Hispanic small business owners seem to be unique, and one of the most interesting aspects of the Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Spotlight, is when it comes to family and community. It turns out that community is vital to the success of Hispanic small business owners.

 

This shows up in three ways:

 

  • Hispanic business owners are much more likely to turn to family for business support. This is especially clear with regards to financial, operational and emotional support – and most (93%) reported turning to family for such support.
  • Community plays a huge role in the success of Hispanic small businesses. Whereas less than half of non-Hispanic business owners indicated that community support was key to their success, almost three-quarters of Hispanic entrepreneurs say it is. And by the same token, just about the same number say that they give back to the community that supports them.
  • Finally, and this one does not surprise me at all when I look at my own extended family, the Hispanic small business owners in the Spotlight report by more than a two-to-one margin that they plan on passing their small business on to a family member. Only 18% of non-Hispanics indicate they would, compared to 42% of the Hispanics surveyed.

 

It’s almost as if the sign in my family’s house could have said “Mi negocio es su negocio.”

 

My business is your 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

Ebong Eka Headshot.png“Dear Mr. Eka,

 

We received your tax return. Please confirm the following information so we can process your refund.

 

Sincerely,


The IRS”

 

If you ever received a letter like this from the IRS, you may want to celebrate your coming refund. Unfortunately, it had the opposite impact on me: I had not yet filed a tax return for 2015, so I should not be expecting a refund.

 

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

                                                                                      

That's when I realized someone filed a fraudulent tax return with my information and social security number. If you are a small business owner, identity theft and tax fraud are increasing and could be problematic for you and your business. Every year, the IRS releases a list of currently prevalent tax scams. Here are 2017’s top seven tax scams and how to protect yourself against them.

 

1. Phishing. Still the most popular trick because it keeps working. Crooks and scammers send a fake email directing you to a website to enter your information. They then steal your information to either file false tax returns or file false tax refunds. If something does not look right to you, don't click on the link in the email.

 

2. Phone scams. As a small business owner, my office phone number is readily available. As a result, I receive phone calls from people claiming to be IRS officers. The caller may threaten to have you deported, seize your assets and property, or threaten criminal prosecution and a variety of other things. If you receive a phone call from the IRS and it doesn't sound right to you or they're trying to receive information from you, hang up and call the IRS back by going to the IRS.gov website to find more information and then see if actually you were called. The IRS doesn't normally call you. If it's a first time, they will send you a letter in the mail.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: FIVE IRS-APPROVED IDEAS TO MINIMIZE YOUR SMALL BUSINESS TAXES

 

3. Identity theft. It is important to be aware about identity theft during tax time. I felt violated when it happened to me. I received letters from the IRS and from the state that I filed tax returns asking me to confirm whether I filed the tax returns. The IRS aggressively pursues criminals that file fraudulent tax returns using somebody else's Social Security number so contact them if you may be a victim of identity theft.

 

4. Return preparer fraud. One of the biggest problems that reputable tax return preparers like myself and others is the number of unscrupulous tax preparers who mislead tax payers. These tax preparers try to encourage tax payers to falsify expenses and deductions so they can receive credits they may not be entitled to.

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5. Fake charities. Some scammers pose as a fake charity so you can donate money with the hopes that you can get a tax deduction for your donation. You should receive a receipt after your donation which you must keep for supporting documents. Visit the IRS.gov website and search for eligible charities that have been registered with the IRS that allows you to get the tax deduction for donating funds to that particular charity or for any contributions.

 

6. Inflated refund claims. If you're a taxpayer, beware of any tax preparer who offers you inflated refunds, including those who promise to get you a large refund or ask to be paid based on the size of your tax refund. People who are either CPAs or enrolled agents are required by law not to get paid on contingency.

 

7. Falsely padding deductions on return. Taxpayers should avoid the temptation to falsify deductions or expenses on their tax return in order to pay less than they owe or to receive a larger refund. It's never worth it. The extra $100, $500 or even $1,000 you may receive is never worth the effort and the headache you would get if caught by the IRS. If caught, you and the tax preparer may be subject to interests and penalties.

 

It's imperative for you to pay close attention and not put yourself in those situations so you can continue running your business and not worry about getting scammed.

 

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.pngAs a deal maker with a couple of billion dollars of completed deals, and at least hundreds of millions worth of deals that fell apart for some reason, I know firsthand that deals are a big business.

 

Given that business growth is often via new customers and that finding new customers is a big component of that, turning to your network can be a great source of small introductions and big deals.

 

If you want to enhance getting such referrals, or perhaps if you have a strong network to be monetized, you may want to formalize giving or getting finder’s fees. However, the structuring of finder’s fees is both an art and a science. Here are some things to keep in mind to make your referrals and finder fee initiatives more successful.

 

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

 

What is the opportunity?

 

I am usually happy to pay a finder’s fee if it’s a business that I would not have been able to get to on my own and the nature of the finder’s relationship adds significant value to my business. I also request finder’s fees in the opposite capacity.

 

However, not every lead is worthy of a finder’s fee. If there isn’t a substantial pre-existing relationship with the lead (i.e., you don’t have a strong or long-term relationship) or if the introduction is more of a lukewarm lead (i.e., a non-exclusive introduction or one that the party being introduced has to compete substantially for over lengthy periods of time), then asking for a fee may not be appropriate. I also often don’t ask for a fee if the value of the customer or deal isn’t that substantial in size.

 

Also, if the person you are referring to or who gave you a particular lead is a contact that you trade leads with on a regular basis or someone who has brought business to you in the past, you may decide to forgo fees and instead just engage in doing your best to send each other business on a go-forward basis.

 

You further need to consider whether the person who is providing the lead is a finder or deal maker as a part of their businesses. If they regularly get compensated for being a finder or deal maker, this sets up more of a case to compensate that someone who does not usually get compensated in such capacity.

 

Additionally, if it’s a relationship where they won’t accept a finder’s fee or it’s not appropriate, consider sending a small token of your appreciation when you receive payment from your new client or customer, such as a gift card, as a way to acknowledge and appreciate the referral.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY YOU NEED A BUSINESS PARTNER

 

What is your role?

 

The reality is that a deal usually has many steps, ranging from identifying many leads to contacting them to putting together materials to structuring and negotiating a deal. A typical “finder’s fee” means you hand-off the lead and you are done, so you are only providing partial value to the process. That being said, there are instances where it makes sense to check-in and see if you can provide some minor value or assistance.

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The bigger your role and the more value you add should be reflected on both sides.

 

Put it in writing

 

Being very clear about agreements upfront almost always serves both parties well. You can keep it simple, but be clear on role (if it’s just an introduction or if there is more work being done), whether the introduction covers one specific project or all projects over a period of time and how fees are calculated.

 

Calculating the finder’s fee

 

The question I get asked more than any is “what’s an appropriate finder’s fee?” My answer: “it depends.”

 

While the value of leads in many industries can span widely, there are benchmarks from 5-35% and higher. For a customer-based introduction, I typically do 10-20% of the net revenue (revenue minus any direct costs) that the provider receives if I am not involved at all or just minimally with some upfront strategy. Sometimes, I ask for a bit less if I have a strong pre-existing relationship, as well.

 

If it is a deal-based finder fee, I would typically ask for 10-20% of the fees an investment banker would charge for the transaction. So, if they charged a 5% fee, my fee would be 10-20% of that.

 

There are many that suggest using the “Lehman formula” as a benchmark. In my opinion, that formula is meant to determine the payment schedules for M&A business advisors for significant transactions and is not appropriate for a finder’s fee. You would only, as noted above, get a fraction of that for being the finder. As a side note, I also think that it’s generally a good idea to proceed with caution with anything named after a company that is no longer in business!

 

In addition to the percentage charged, you need to figure out what to base it off of and for what time period. For a customer-fee, as noted above, I based it off of the net revenue they receive, usually over just a couple of years, as it’s very cumbersome to keep track of that indefinitely, and while being a finder has value, it’s not invaluable, so to speak.

 

The bottom line is that both parties need to feel comfortable that the fee reflects the value of the referring person’s brand and is an appropriate amount for the receiving person to spend for what is, in effect, a sales lead.

 

So, whether you want to be paid as a finder or use them to grow your own business, be clear and thoughtful with the above advice for guidance – and remember there’s never a wrong time to be helpful to someone else.

 

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.

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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.

 

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