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Attributes_Thumb3.gifEvery owner’s story is different. But as a group, there are five common and positive characteristics that help shape their approach to life and wealth. Find out what these shared traits are – and the opportunities and challenges that come with them – in our new report, “Five Attributes of Today’s Business Owners.”


Click here to download Guide: Five Attributes of Today’s Business Owners (PDF).

Top-Concerns-Thumbnail.gifOwning a small business means there's rarely a time when thoughts of how to run, grow, and manage it better aren't top of mind. With that, we took a look at the top concerns that small business owners have today, and how they view the economic environment for hiring, healthcare, technology, and work/life balance in the months ahead.

 

Click here to view the infographic.  


You can also download a PDF version for printing by clicking here.


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Inc-Article-Logo.gifFrom cracking glass ceilings to breaking industry barriers, today’s women are defining business ownership on their terms.

 

There’s a national conversation in play about women in the workplace and the challenges they face with regard to pay equity and advancement opportunities. But that conversation is centered on women who work for someone else. Shift the focus to women who work for themselves and the whole dynamic changes—which is one reason why more women are exploring the opportunities they can create as small business owners.

 

“I don’t see that there are any ceilings once you become an entrepreneur,” says Susan Rittscher, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Center for Women and Enterprise. “Capital is a little bit more challenging at times, but we help women through that. The other thing is that many women who are on a corporate ladder have decided that they don’t want a corporate lifestyle. They opt for becoming an entrepreneur so they can have more flexibility and have a better work-life balance.”

 

Choice is one of the perks of entrepreneurship. Women who need to juggle business ownership with other priorities can turn to organizations like Rittscher’s to learn how to manage and control small business growth. Others find that with the right management structure, they can pursue more ambitious profit and growth goals. As entrepreneurs, they’re in the driver’s seat.

 

That can prove especially true where you might not expect it: in traditionally male-dominated industries in which women are underrepresented. Those who are strong in areas such as science and math or industries like technology or construction may discover that they have a competitive advantage. “Large corporations have to set aside a certain portion of their spend for contracting to women and minorities,” Rittscher says. “If a woman gets into those areas, is very good, and understands contracting, it can be very lucrative.”

 

With that in mind, she encourages women to look into getting their enterprises certified as woman-owned businesses. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) grants certification through local organizations like the Center for Business and Enterprise. Among her clients who have completed the certification process is a marketing and promotional materials company that “really learned how to use the process well and now has contracts with six or eight Fortune 500 companies,” she says. “So it does work.”

 

Women who work as consultants and sole proprietors can land clients in those tiers, as well, either on their own or through subcontracting. And given that 92 percent of woman-owned businesses generate less than $2 million in revenue, opportunities of that magnitude can propel them to unprecedented levels of profitability and growth. “It’s not necessarily easy, but I find that women are quite resilient and able to do a lot more than we think at times,” Richter says.

 

Visit the WBENC website for more information about the benefits of certification, which begin with access to a list of supplier diversity and procurement executives at corporations and government agencies. The site also offers a walk-through of the certification process and the documentation required.

 


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Inc.. 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.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Manufacturing.jpgAccording to the American Small Manufacturers Coalition (ASMC), manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, and small business is a substantial part of it. The coalition says that 99 percent of manufacturing employees work for companies with fewer than 500 people.

Although manufacturing is a significant driver of economic growth, the industry has serious hurdles to overcome to keep its engine humming. On the following pages we outline the four key challenges small manufacturers face, and solutions suggested by those on the front lines.


Click to download PDF.

Student_Debt_Entrepreneurship_body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

The millennial generation is typically considered one of the most entrepreneurial ever, launching new businesses from their dorm rooms and garages.

But new research is showing that an unlikely factor—student debt—is having a major impact on this generation’s ability and desire to be entrepreneurs.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, the share of new entrepreneurs in the 20- to 34-year old age group has decreased dramatically, from 34.8% in 1996 when they first started tracking numbers, to 24.7% in 2014 – the only age demographic that has consistently trended downward over time.

“We know that rising levels of student debt affect different aspects of your career path, as well as decisions to get married and buy a house,” says E.J. Reedy, director of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.

These two elements are associated with entrepreneurship because having wealth in the form of owning a home and having a spouse contributing to family income are tied to an increased propensity to take the risks involved in starting a business.

Student_Debt_Entrepreneurship_PQ.jpg“We’ve seen a real decline in business ownership through younger households,” he says, adding that most new business owners rely heavily on personal assets and loans to get their companies started.

The numbers for student debt are crushing and continuing to rise. In its ninth annual report on student loan debt, the Institute for College Access and Success found nearly seven in 10 graduating seniors in 2013 left school with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt, an increase of 2 percent from 2012.

According to Reedy, there has been an increase in programs designed to help people with student debt, but many are tied specifically to government or nonprofit work.

“We don’t want to artificially incentivize anyone to work in an area where they’re not suited,” he says. “We need to find solutions that allow people to move jobs and follow opportunity rather than feeling locked in because their student loan debt deferral is tied to the sector they are working in. The United States is starting to make progress here but needs more work.”

In addition to the decline in millennials starting businesses, the school debt issue has other impacts for small businesses since they are traditionally a rich source of jobs for younger people. Reedy says that small business owners who have a young workforce should be aware of this additional burden and recognize that workers with additional debt might have a need for different benefits, such as financial counseling.

“Where we get concerned is how this debt will affect the willingness of this generation to take risks,” he says. “The debt will have long-lasting repercussions that we don’t fully know.”

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

cpa.jpgBesides staying current on topics like tax law, CPAs must also deal with problems common to almost every type of business: how can they attract and retain clients? How can they raise their fees without losing important accounts? How can they provide value to their clients throughout the year and not just when they prepare returns? In the following article, experts explain how making strategic moves on these matters can help position a CPA firm for success and long-term growth.


Click to download PDF.

Veterinarians.jpgIt's not unusual for consumers to think of their pets as members of the family and seek out the best medical care for them. This devotion can give veterinarians an opportunity, provided they work at building a relationship with prospects and patients before, during, and after pets are brought in. Experts say that a deft use of communication and technology tools, defining your practice's brand, and putting out relevant, trustworthy information on issues affecting pet health are essential for acquiring and retaining patients. Read on to learn how you can use these best practices to build your business.


Click here to download PDF.

Franchising-Thumb.gifFor folks looking to be their own boss yet operate an established business model, franchising is an increasingly popular choice. According to the International Franchise Association, the number of units opened and employment growth in the sector continues to outpace the overall economy. Read on to see which industries are attracting the most interest, and who's buying franchises today.

 

Click here to view the infographic.  


You can also download a PDF version for printing by clicking here.

Tech_Solutions_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


In a recent study from the SMB Group, a technology industry research and analysis group, 42 percent of small business owners reported having difficulty figuring out how different technology solutions could help their business. When a business owner can’t see how they would benefit from a tool, they don’t use it. That means they’re often left working without solutions that can deliver greater efficiency, productivity, or even sales. To help ensure that you’re making smart technology decisions, consider using the ROAR method to discern the value that a new tech solution can bring to your business:


(R)esearch

If you’re curious about a new technological solution and what it actually does, go to that company’s website. Any tech worth having will explain its intended benefits in some detail. Language to look for: anything referencing increased productivity, the ability to have remote team members work together, and enhanced data security. Also, search out the brand on social media, and pay particular attention to user reviews. Insights from other small business owners can often articulate a technology product’s real benefits.


Tech_Solutions_PQ.jpg(O)bservation

The next step is to take an objective look at your business, particularly in the areas where the new technological solution purports to be of the most value. Compare your current performance with your benchmark goals. If there’s room for improvement, further inquiry into the new technology is warranted.


(A)nalysis

If it appears the new technology will meet a need your small business has, it’s time to run the numbers. Will the projected increase in efficiency, productivity, or new business more than offset the cost of acquiring and maintaining the new technology? Make sure to factor in the cost of training your team to use the new technology. As a best practice, use conservatively optimistic numbers when making these projections; colleagues or other business owners who are already using the tool may be your best source for this information.


(R)ule

The final step is to look at all the information you’ve gathered, about the needs the new technology is designed to meet, your own business’s performance in these areas, and the cost-effectiveness of the tool. Then, whether or not you choose to adopt the new technology solution, you can move forward in confidence that you’ve made a fully informed decision.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

franchise.jpgAccording to the International Franchise Association, franchises are expected to create 247,000 new jobs in 2015—a 2.9 percent jump over last year—and outperform every segment of the overall economy for the fifth year in a row. Beyond the larger impact on employment, the rewards of franchising your own business include helping to expand your brand, giving you access to a handsome amount of capital, and recruiting passionate, knowledgeable talent in a relatively fast timeframe. But the downside for the franchisor is a certain loss of control over the management of a particular site and taking a smaller cut of the profits. Read on to learn whether franchising is the right next step for your business.


Click to download the PDF.

Thumb.jpgAdvice and insight from entrepreneurs who successfully sold or transferred their businesses to family members.

 

We feature the first-hand experiences of eight entrepreneurs from diverse industries who have tackled this critical transition. We are indebted to the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center at Columbia Business School for collaborating with us on this project. And we are deeply grateful to the entrepreneurs who shared their stories with candor and graciousness.

 

As the following case studies attest, entrepreneurs encounter distinctive issues with every exit. Each situation is unique, reflecting the diversity of business owners and enterprises. One theme recurs, however: the magnitude of this transition. Selling or transferring a business has critical ramifications for an entrepreneur, his or her family, employees, and community. Entrepreneur Charles Scheidt aptly reflects, "building and nurturing a fascinating business is immensely demanding and ultimately satisfying. Letting go of it, selling it, is both a very difficult decision and a stressful process."

 

The most successful transitions require entrepreneurs to orchestrate finely tuned exits. But in a lifestyle that is already supercharged with responsibilities and deadlines, taking the time to initiate the planning process early is often neglected, a situation that can greatly affect the choices available and the ultimate value of a life's work. Without this planning, "business owners are often forced to exit on other people's terms."


To read the study, please download the PDF by clicking here.

Franchising_Concepts_body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.

Franchising has always been attractive to enterprising small business professionals. Not only does it give them an opportunity to own their own business without the burden of starting it from scratch, but it also helps them to do so while using a proven business model.

In the last five years, franchising has seen over 1,000 new brands come into existence, according to John Reynolds, president of the International Franchising Association Educational Foundation, the education arm of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization for franchise professionals. And of that number, 38 percent were started in the last five years.

According to the IFA, here are the current top five franchising concepts: 

  • Health/fitness (i.e. gyms)
  • Frozen desserts (i.e. smoothies, frozen yogurt, etc.)
  • Retail foods (i.e. grocers, food markets)
  • Beauty-related (i.e. hair salons, nail salons)
  • Baked goods (i.e. bakeries, bagel shops, donut shops)

Reynolds says lifestyle trends among two key demographics—baby boomers and millennials—account for the surge in interest in these particular franchising segments.

Franchising_Concepts_PQ.jpg

“Two things are happening,” says Reynolds. “You have this demographic of older people who are living longer and healthier lives. They’re flowing into all of these health and fitness businesses.”

At the same time, millennials are getting their first jobs or starting their first business.  “For them, it’s all about a balance of life issues. It’s not unusual to have conversations with people in this group who say they get up every day at 5 a.m. so they can do their workouts for 90 minutes before they go to their jobs,” Reynolds says. “They work hard but they’re also focused on being healthy. They have more disposable income coming out of the recession and they’re spending it on two things—being  healthy and looking good.”

Given the size and spending power of these two demongraphic groups, Reynolds believes the franchising concepts going strong today have staying power. “Businesses don’t come into these markets unless there are demographics to support them,” he says.

For budding entrepreneurs, owning a franchise can be a great investment. But before signing on, it’s critical to do the proper due diligence. Speak with other franchisees to get their take on the business. And of course, read through all the supporting documentation to understand the costs involved upfront and what you’ll be paying in marketing fees down the road.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

franchise.jpgAccording to the International Franchise Association Educational Foundation, more than 750,000 franchise establishments were in operation in 2014. Although the growth rate of new franchises lags pre-recession levels, buying into an established business model continues to attract small business hopefuls. The rewards of working with a respected franchisor can range from selling a well-known product or service in a proven niche to reaping a respectable return on investment. But some future franchisees overlook the downsides, fail to do enough research, and discover too late that the move was not for them. Before venturing into this business opportunity, read on to understand the questions and items to keep in mind.


Click here to download PDF.

Small_Business_Burnout_body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.


Nearly all of us dream of being our own boss, but when you reach that peak, sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re running your company, or it’s running you. A getaway to the Bahamas might seem like a good cure, but let’s face it: that’s probably not realistic for most small business owners. In fact, according to a survey by the Constant Contact Small Biz Council, 43 percent of small business owners say they don't take vacations at all, and 40 percent say they don’t even see their family and friends as much as they would like.


But regular breaks are crucial to maintain your focus. We polled some small business owners to come up with these five actionable tips you can implement today to keep small business burnout at bay:


1. Blend, don’t balance

Darin Lynch, CEO and founder of Irish Titan, suggests blending facets of your life together so you can feel as though you are nurturing each of them. He’ll take his daughter to work, review proposals at the gym, and include friends and family in work events.

 

2. Take at least one entire day off from work every week

You know the drill – you go to check email on Saturday morning and get drawn in to “just one more thing.” Next thing you know it’s noon and you haven’t read that book or gone on that hike. Mollie Chen, owner of Mu-Yin Jewelry, recommends that small business owners take at least one day off a week from work and refrain from all calls, emails, and voicemails.

 

Small_Business_Burnout_PQ.jpg3. Reward yourself

“It might sound small, but I’ll get a great cup of coffee once I complete my tasks,” says Trevor Ewan, owner of Pear of the Week. “Working towards that small reward keeps me focused during the day.” Whether it’s a manicure, enjoying your lunch at the park, or indulging in some YouTube videos, make sure you have a small reward planned after finishing tough tasks.

 

4. Plan fun

We think of fun as being spontaneous but running a small business can leave little time for spontaneous acts,  says Will von Bernuth, cofounder of Block Island Organics. He advocates putting time for you on your schedule, like any other appointment, whether you want to use it to read, exercise or visit with friends.

 

5. Gain perspective into your priorities

Whenever he feels his life getting out of balance, Barry Maher, principal of Barry Maher & Associates, will rank how much time he spends on each activity in his life. He’ll then make another list of the five things he considers most important in his life and compare them. “Just seeing the discrepancy between those lists is an incredibly powerful motivator for making sure I plan to make time for what refreshes me.”


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

Business_with_Govt_body.jpgby Cathie Ericson.


The government can be a lucrative client—on the federal side alone, about $500 billion worth of contracts are awarded each year, and legally, 23 percent of all government spending is supposed to go toward small businesses. Here are five ways a small business can secure its piece of government spending.


Do your research

As with other new business development efforts, face time is critical to landing government work, according to Guy Baroan, president of Baroan Technologies, which works with 10 government entities. He suggests you find out who the decision maker is and introduce yourself and your capabilities. “They are more likely to remember you from in-person contact, and reach out when they need a bid,” he says. Also try to attend networking events hosted by government agencies to learn more about procurement databases, timelines, processes, and subcontracting opportunities, says Crystal Kendrick, president of The Voice of Your Customer, a marketing consulting firm that works extensively with government agencies, as well as advising other small businesses.


Talk the talk

Kendrick encourages small businesses to revise their marketing materials to a format used by government agencies; for example, creating a “capabilities statement” rather than a brochure and including the keywords that government agencies use. Reading through archived “requests for proposals” on various government websites can help you with the wording.


Business_with_Govt_PQ.jpgThen really listen

Don’t be so eager to talk about what your firm can do that you miss what the government agency needs. “Listen carefully to their pain points and challenges, and then discuss how your solutions can help,” Baroan says. “If you are monopolizing the conversation by just talking about yourself, the solution you offer might just be a miss.”


Acknowledge your diversity

Is your business owned by a woman, veteran or minority? Many government agencies are eager to work with a diverse array of businesses, and underscoring those qualifications can help you stand out.We encourage small businesses to apply for these special certifications with each agency they identify as potential clients,” Kendrick says.


Deliver great results

Baroan stresses that the hardest part of securing a government contract is being selected in the first place, but once you succeed, that agency is likely to share your name. “You’ll be surprised at what a small community it is. If you’re fortunate enough to earn a contract with one group and do a great job, they’ll be your biggest fan,” he says. You might start out with a small project that grows into something bigger, or a request to do something similar with another agency. “Having a track record with the government is like a seal of approval. Once you have that, they’ll start recommending your services to others,” says Baroan.


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media LLC to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media LLC is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media LLC. 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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