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A few months ago, a colleague wrote to me asking if I knew of anyone who could edit a book she was writing. Immediately, I thought of my middle daughter, Sydney, who was getting ready to graduate from college at the time. As an English major, Syd didn’t really know what was next for her. What she did know is that she loved to write (and does it very well, says the proud papa) and was planning to go to Europe this July with her boyfriend.

 

So I asked her whether I should recommend her for the gig. She was nervous:

 

“I’ve never really edited a full book before, Dad.”

“Well, do you think you could do it?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“I think so too.”

She said, “OK, I’m willing to try, especially if I could do it part-time.”

 

Long story short, she got the gig, just finished editing the book, and with some money in the bank she is now getting ready to head off to London.

 

Sydney had unknowingly stumbled upon exactly what employers are looking for these days in prospective employees: people who can work part-time and who have skills. According to the most recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), these are two things small business owners want when looking to make a new hire these days.

 

A detailed look at the survey can actually be seen as a roadmap on how recent graduates can get hired in this tight and competitive jobSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png market. Here is what I mean:

 

For starters, according to the Small Business Owner Report, here is the breakdown of the type of worker entrepreneurs are hiring:

 

  • Part-time: 54%
  • Full-time: 51%
  • Freelance: 26%

 

As you can see, part-time is at the top.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

In addition, the general preference amongst small business owners is to hire Gen X employees (47%), more than a quarter of the small business owners surveyed (26%) said that they prefer to hire Millennials. Additionally, it also turns out that, despite conventional wisdom, you don’t need to be a STEM major to get a job (science, technology, engineering, and math). You know the drumbeat of course – STEM majors are supposedly the most sought-after grads out there.

 

Except when they aren’t.

 

According to the SBOR, a knowledge of STEM was the least important hiring criteria (10th of 10 categories.) Only 3% considered education level to be the most important factor when evaluating job applicants. What is far more important actually are these three things:

 

  • Skill level (49% said it was most important)
  • Fitness with company culture (24%)
  • Experience (24%)

 

Sydney is a perfect example of this. While she had little experience editing an entire book by herself, she did have the skills to do it. Being young and inexperienced actually worked in her favor; the author was able to get her for much less than it would have to hire a more experienced editor.

 

And that is what small business owners are looking for upon careful consideration of the SBOR. What they want are hard-working, trustworthy people whom they can afford, who can adapt and fit in, and who are coachable.

 

If recent grads have the right attitude and are flexible, that elusive post-graduation job can be theirs.

 

And with that I say, congratulations on graduating, good luck, and happy job-hunting!

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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Small business advocate Carol Roth and an expert panel, including the Small Business Administration’s Nick Maduros, the Small Business Majority’s Rhett Buttle and Georgetown Cupcake’s CEO, Stephen LaMontagne engage in a resources briefing and discussion on the latest news, trends and policies relevant to small businesses.  Ealier in the video, Bank of America Head of Small Business Sharon Miller also provides an overview of the Spring 2016 Small Business Owner Report research.

 

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Click to view the video on YouTube.

The most recent Bank of America Small Business Owner Report is filled with lots of interesting information, but to me it all points to one singular trait that any small business owner needs to have if he or she is to be successful. I’ll get to what that trait is in a moment, but some background about what the report found is necessary:

 

For starters, the report found that economic optimism is down across the board. Compared to last year especially, small business owners are less optimistic about the local, national, or global economies faring well. As we’re in an election year, 2/3 of those surveyed said thSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngat they expected the presidential election to impact their business “somewhat” to “a lot.”

 

That is a lot of uncertainty, and amidst all of this, small business owners are adjusting their growth and hiring plans:

 

  • While almost half said they were planning on hiring new staff last year, that number went down to 22% this year.

 

So, what does all of this point to? What is that most necessary trait that any small business owner needs to have to be successful? There are many traits that make a successful entrepreneur, for example, initiative. Certainly one requirement of entrepreneurship is that you have an idea and are willing to try it out and see it through. Entrepreneur Seth Godin says, “The only thing worse than starting something and failing, is not starting something.”  Initiative is important, but I don’t think it’s the number one trait.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

There’s also perseverance. Said none other than Steve Jobs: “I am convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

 

Maybe it is follow through. Says Guy Kawasaki, “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.”

 

A lot of people, myself included, think that one central tenant for business success is confidence. It certainly is true that it takes a huge leap of faith and belief in yourself and your abilities to leave the comforts and stability of a job and strike out on your own. As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.”

 

But I am not sure that even confidence is the key to long-term success.

 

No, especially when I look at stats like those in the Small Business Owner Report, it seems clear to me that if you want to stay in business for the long haul, the one trait that is needed is... flexibility.

 

How do you go from planning on hiring new staff to not being sure whether the economy and the results of the election will sustain it? By being flexible. How do you deal with the thought that a national election could have ripple effects to your small business? By being flexible. Being flexible means being able to pivot when you lose a big customer or when a competitor steals your marketing strategy. For the small business person, flexibility is confidence and perseverance and follow-through all rolled into one.

 

And in that vein, I will leave you with one final quote, from the one and only Richard Branson:

 

“You don’t learn to walk by following the rules. You learn to walk by doing and falling over.”

 

Getting up, learning a lesson, being flexible, and trying again is what enables the best small business owners to keep walking. 

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Finding time to take a vacation can be difficult for many small business owners. But statistics show that time off can make you happier and healthier, as well as help you achieve a better work/life balance. In our new infographic, we have some helpful tips on how to run a business and find the time you need to take a break from the office.

 

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Click here to download a PDF of the infographic.

 

 

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Should you invest in commercial real estate or lease space for your small business? The answer depends on the nature of your business and how long you plan to stay in one place. Take a look at these pros and cons to figure out the best option for your growing firm.

 

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Small Business Checking

New small business owners often look for experience when hiring a new employee. When you are new to business and have a need, or a position that needs to be filled, it makes sense that you might initially look for someone who has done this kind of work before.

 

But the interesting thing is that after a few years in business, for most entrepreneurs, experience becomes much less important. Indeed, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, experience comes in at a distant second in terms of importance when looking to hire.

 

So, what is number one? I will get to that in a moment, but let’s first consider why seasoned small business owners find experience to be less than a great marker for a potentially great employee.

 

There are two things that are inherent drawbacks to hiring for experience:

 

  1. It limits your pool of applicants.
  2. And it pigeonholes the applicants you receive.

 

Sure, experience is helpful, but making that the focal point of a job search means that other things, for example, growth potential, cultural fit, skills and smarts are less important. It also means that you, as the recruiter, may miss out on some really good people; people who won’t apply because your post said, “3 years’ experience necessary” and they don’t have that (yet). Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Experience is nice, but limiting.

 

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see that, according to the spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, the characteristic that is far more important in the hiring process for the business owners surveyed is “skill level”. According to the report:

 

  • 49% of the small business owners surveyed said that the most important thing they look for when hiring is someone’s skill level
  • 24% said it was fit with company culture, and
  • 24% said it was work experience

 

That certainly is true for small business owner Jamie Glassman. For Glassman, owner of JAZ Condominium & Property Management in Washington, D.C., personality is most important when looking to hire.

 

Glassman, one of the small business owners interviewed by Bank of America for the report, says that what he looks for are people who will be a great fit with his company; “people who are personable, smart, articulate and customer-service oriented.” Glassman says that those types of qualities are far more important than finding someone with a lot of experience and a long resume. “That’s not necessarily that important,” he goes on to say.

 

Why is it that small business owners like Glassman look for fit and skills instead of experience? The answer lies in what makes for a great business. Businesses are not monolithic. They are made up of people – people who do business with other people. As such, the best businesses tend to have employees who are versatile – folks who can not only do the job they were hired to do, but who can think on their feet, interact well with customers, take the initiative, and so on. Skills are transferable, and that is why experience in a particular job matters far less to these small business owners.

 

Find people who fit your culture and have transferable skills and you are set.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

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Early summer is the traditional time when we as a nation honor moms with Mother’s Day and dads with Father’s Day. However, in the small business world we know that if we were creating holidays, there would be one more person we would want to acknowledge: Spouses. Husbands. Wives. Girlfriends and boyfriends. Partners.

 

My dear old Dad was the first and best entrepreneur I ever knew. But he didn’t do it alone, just like you and I don’t do it alone. Dad had a great, and sometimes to outward appearances silent, partner: Mom. But I didn’t know it at the time. Back then, when I was growing up, I remember my Mom saying how she and my Dad had created that businesses and grew it together. Being young and arrogant, I always humored Mom when she said that. I knew it was really my Dad who built that business.

 

That is, of course, until I grew up.

 

I have this pet theory: I think every great cuisine has a ‘secret ingredient’ that gives that food its unique flavor. For Chinese food, it is sesame oil. Mexican food? Cilantro. What I didn't know when I was a young kid is that a spouse, be it a husband, wife, or significant other, is the secret ingredient in the recipe that makes for a great small business.

 

This is true for all sorts of reasons.

 

First of all, the vast majority of small businesses are run by intrepid solopreneur, self-employed people. These may be sole proprietors or freelancers, but whatever the case, it is usually a situation where one person wears a lot of hats, and that is where a mate comes in. If the good news about working alone is that there is no one to report to or to bug you, the bad news is that you end up in a vacuum where it is hard to get perspective. For many people, it is their spouse who becomes their trusted advisor and sounding board.

 

Another reason partners are so important to the small businessperson is that they can be more frank with you than probably anyone else. Is that idea as great as you think? Maybe, but maybe not, and certainly your spouse will tell you why. Additionally, the advice you get from th

em will likely be unique: While mates may not know your businesses as well as you do, that can also be a

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

blessing. By discussing business issues with a ‘layman’, you get a perspective that can at times be invaluable.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

Additionally, needless to say, spouses also often help out in the business by picking up the slack, handing the books, shipping a package, and more.

 

Of course, your partner keeps the home fires burning too. We all know that starting and running a small business is a major commitment. Having a supportive teammate can make things easier by taking care of some extra household duties, especially in the first few years of the business when the time commitment to the business is usually the hardest.

 

Finally, a great mate can help boost morale when it is needed, and cheer you on when things are going well.

 

So, although my dear, sweet Mom is no longer with us, I would still like to say, “You were right, Mom. You did help build that business.” And to all of the great spouses and partners out there, we would like to thank you very, very much. We couldn't do it without you.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

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Employees are the lifeblood of every small business. An adroit loyal workforce can help small business owners build a successful enterprise efficiently and profitably. So it’s no surprise that acquiring and retaining the best talent is among the most important ongoing tasks for an entrepreneur. Earning a decent wage is a perpetual concern, but new issues have also become part of the employment negotiation, such as paid family leave and opportunities for employees to develop their skills. As you search for and try to hold onto top talent, consider these hiring strategies.

 

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Sources:
1. Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition—Recruitment and Screening. Society For Human Resource Management Survey. January 7, 2016.
https://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/pages/social-media-recruiting-screening-2015.aspx

 

2. Talent Acquisition: Recruitment and Selection. Society For Human Resource Management Survey. April 18, 2016.
https://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/pages/talent-acquisition-recruitment-and-selection.aspx

 

3. 5 Tips to Attract, Keep and Motivate Your Employees. Business Know-How.
http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/attractworkforce.htm

 

4. Employee Recruitment Strategies: How to Attract (& Retain) Top Talent. Huffington Post, December 29, 2015.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-jacoby/employee-recruitment-stra_1_b_8885714.html

 

5. Small business advice: How to attract and retain loyal millennials. The Washington Post, July 21, 2015.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/2015/07/21/small-business-advice-how-to-attract-and-retain-loyal-millennials/

 

6. 5 Secrets to Retaining Great Employees. Small Business Trends, January 22, 2016.
http://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/retaining-good-employees.html

 

7. What Attracts the Best Employees to a Company? Gallup, February 16, 2016.
http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/189212/attracts-best-employees-company.aspx

 

8. 7 Compensation Tactics To Help Retain Employees. CNBC, January 12, 2012.
http://www.cnbc.com/id/46045960

 

9. 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Attract and Retain Talent. SmallBizClub, July 26, 2013.
http://smallbizclub.com/run-and-grow/human-resources/5-ways-small-businesses-can-attract-and-retain-talent/

 

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. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

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ProductiveMeetings_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Of all the hours small business owners spend in meetings, how much of that time is productive? Late arrivals, tangent-talkers, and disorganized agendas can easily turn a 30-minute meeting into an hour-long discussion. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient for everyone.

 

Do you really need to meet?

Andrea Driessen, “Chief Boredom Buster” of No More Boring Meetings, says to meet only when there is a problem to solve. “This helps eliminate some of the standard meetings we get stuck in,” she says. If there isn’t a problem to solve during your regular Tuesday meeting, maybe you don’t need to meet.

 

Prioritize the agenda

Organize the agenda in order of priority, with the most important item first. “Everything else can follow,” says Driessen. Move lighter topics to the end, when people are more mentally fatigued and tend to watch the clock.

 

Streamline the agenda

Reasonably estimate how many topics you can cover in 30 to 60 minutes. “If it requires dialog, problem solving conversation, or negotiation, keep it on the agenda,” says Driessen. Otherwise, check it off the list.

 

ProductiveMeetings_PQ.jpgPrepare

Hosts and guests alike should arrive to the meeting prepared. Hosts and attendees can distribute reading material, background information, and reports in advance of the meeting. That way, you can use meeting time for questions and conversation rather than reviewing paperwork.

 

Arrive on time

Much to the irritation of the punctual, latecomers delay and disrupt a meeting. Respect your colleagues—arrive on time and start your meetings on time. If you have a habitually late guest, author Jon Petz suggests a game of “pass the pad.” Give the last person to arrive a notebook or electronic device and delegate them the meeting note-taker. If someone arrives later, the pad gets passed to him. “This results in quick behavior changes with little effort,” says Driessen.

 

Cut the tangents

Driessen suggests that meeting hosts designate a “tangent officer” that can politely interrupt the rambler. The tangent officer then offers to either add the topic to the end of the agenda or save it for another meeting.

 

Invite the right people—and keep them accountable

Only invite people that have a stake in the meeting topics, Driessen suggests. This naturally keeps the meeting to a reasonable size and helps to avoid tangents from people unfamiliar with the topics.

 

Often meetings involve lots of discussion but no action. To ensure that ideas move forward, Driessen suggests a Post Program Pair-Up. Match participants with an “accountability buddy.” Ask guests to record at least one goal related to the meeting that they can complete by a certain date. The accountability buddies check in with one another to make sure they meet their goals. This buddy system, or something similar, will help you get stronger results and measurable accountability from your meetings.

 

With advance planning, you and your colleagues can hold and attend productive meetings. With fewer, but more purposeful, meetings, you can create more space in your day and enhance your business’s productivity.

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

One of the things I have enjoyed most about my ongoing partnership with Bank of America is getting to know the business of small business banking and lending so much better. Generally speaking, I think it is an area that a lot of small business people misunderstand, and this was certainly true for me when I started my first business. When I first started out, I initially used the Friends & Family Investment plan. Now I know that there are better, more professional options available.

 

Chief among the financial misunderstandings amongst most small business people is what it actually takes to get a bank loan for their business. I think the process intimidates many entrepreneurs.

 

It shouldn’t.

 

What I know now that I didn’t know then is that banks (like my friends at Bank of America) want to lend you money. That is their business, after all. It is our job therefore to make their job easier.

 

Here’s how:

 

1. Create a relationship with your banker: This was the big eye-opener for me. Before you ever go into the bank with your loan package, it Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngwould behoove you to have created a relationship with a small business banker beforehand. They are there, ready to help you prepare the strongest loan package you can. But that can only happen if you meet with them beforehand.

 

2. Figure out how much you need: This needs to be thought through very carefully. It’s like Goldilocks’ porridge – you don’t want to ask for too little (because that would result in a capital shortage quickly) and you don’t want to ask for too much (because the bank would question your judgment and business plan). You need to ask for an amount that is just right. Your banker can help you figure this out.

 

You also want to be sure that you are seeking funds for the right reasons. Getting a loan because you are consistently not turning a profit is a bad reason. Getting a loan to finance a necessary piece of equipment is a good reason.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

3. Get your personal credit in order: Not all loans require a personal guarantee on the part of the principal, but many do, so you need to be sure that your credit score is in line with what lenders are looking for. The business’ financials need to be in order as well. Lenders will look at:

 

  • Your credit score: Above 700 is desired.
  • Debt to income ratio: How much do you owe versus how much do you make?
  • Credit history: Do you pay debts back on time and in full?
  • Length of time in business: The longer the better.
  • Cash flow: More is better.

 

4. Prepare your loan package: Your package will include financials, projections, business plan, leases and relevant contracts, and personal financial information. The relationship you previously created with your small business banker can help here too as you can make your introductory letter more personal and he or she will already know you and your business.

 

5. Submit and wait: Depending upon the size of the loan, the bank’s decision may come in a few days or it may be a few weeks.

 

6. Repay: The secret to getting an even bigger and better loan (better rates and terms) is paying your loan back in full and on time. Paying it back early is even better. Do that and you will have established your business as not only credit-worthy, but also the type of business with a bank wants to do more business with.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

DontGiveTime_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Small business owners everywhere, regardless of profession or industry, will face the question soon enough: “Can I pick your brain about something?” Or, more vaguely, “Can we chat about business?” It’s flattering to know that you have knowledge to offer, and may genuinely want to help others, but business owners must value their time. Time spent dispensing free advice over coffee is time that could be spent growing the business.

 

When the question comes, it’s perfectly acceptable, even preferable, to politely decline. “I provide a valuable service, and it’s my business,” says Beth Donalds, a business coach based in northern New Jersey. “I afford my contacts the same courtesy that I give my clients. If you don’t value your services, how can any one else?”

 

Protect your investment

When contacts approach Donalds in a social setting, she responds with a version of the following: “Those are really good questions. I don’t think this is the place to discuss this, but I have a special pick-my-brain session for these situations that’s $90.” She hands them her card and asks them to schedule time with her. Many times, they don’t. But her response falls in line with her business values.

 

Protecting your time also applies to friends and family, but must be managed with care. Donalds recommends that business owners set a policy and stick with it. For example, a business owner may decide to charge everyone except his or her immediate family. “I tell clients to be true to themselves,” Donalds says. “I have best friends for 50 years that I charge, but I won’t charge my brother or my mother.”

 

In addition to a polite decline and a fee-based consulting offer, business owners can consider alternative ways to help colleagues with minimal time and effort. Regardless, remember to value your expertise:

 

DontGiveTime_PQ.jpgPick up the phone

Some business owners will agree to a 10-minute phone conversation. Donalds says that even this approach devalues your time. An exception applies when the business model includes a free 20-minute consultation. “Some business owners use this approach to vet potential clients,” she says. “That’s fine, because the business owner gets value from it.”

 

Offer referrals

Refer the contact to your blog or website, a trade publication, or a book that might be helpful.

 

Educate others

If you receive multiple requests for the same type of information, consider producing a webinar or hosting a workshop. The program could generate extra income for your business and answer those prevalent questions—for a fee.

 

Whatever route you choose, always protect and value your time. And remember, if the contact or client gets offended or angry, they probably aren’t the person to do business with.

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Co-WorkingSpaces_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

At some point, many small business owners grow out of their home office, or they just become bored, lonely, and uninspired working alone. One option that is sizzling right now is co-working spaces. In fact, a recent global co-working survey shows that demand for shared office space has risen more than 36 percent over the past year.

We spoke to some small business owners to find out how they’re benefitting from co-working spaces—and how you can determine if they’re right for you:

Camaraderie: If you find yourself craving a visit from UPS or are spending more time than you should on Facebook, that could be an indication it’s time to rethink your home office. “Interacting with smart and creative people every day is inspiring and always boosts my mood,” says Lisa McAlister, founder of With Good Cause, a boutique agency specializing in corporate and sports philanthropy. She joined The Studio in Boulder, Colo., in January after working out of her home for 13 years. Besides day-to-day interaction, many co-working spaces are known for activities and after work gatherings to encourage camaraderie.

 

Immediate feedback: A co-working space can offer a ready-made focus group with a valuable outside perspective, says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal, which provides on-call lawn care services. “Changes to our product or design can now be immediately vetted by other entrepreneurs instead of relying on our internal team to make assumptions,” he says, of moving the four-person team to the Missioner in Nashville after working out of a home office for the first two years of operation.

 

Co-WorkingSpaces_PQ.jpgProfessional atmosphere: Bringing clients to your home can feel unprofessional and meeting in a coffee shop can be crowded and noisy. Resources, such as meeting rooms, a reception area, and security are a vital part of the co-working space, says Sam Meek of Sandboxx, an app that connects military members, who is now working out of the Eastern Foundry co-working space in Arlington, Va.

 

Separation of work and home: Home can become home again when work isn’t constantly beckoning from another room. “I found myself working less late at night, if at all,” says Brandon Fuhrmann, CEO of Cooler Kitchen kitchenware, who found his productivity soared when he began using the co-working space at WeWork in Chelsea, N.Y., last November.

 

Professional confidence: “There is something about having a designated office that gives you more credibility when talking about your business,” says McAlister. “Even though it’s more common to work from home these days, it still can be hard to shake the ‘lucky you, sitting on the couch in your PJs’ vibe you get from others.”

Of course, with any shared working space there are some potential drawbacks to consider. Chief among them are distractions and the lack of privacy. Alex Pierson, founder of social media app springpop, who moved to the WeWork location in San Francisco last summer, says the environment itself can lead to distraction with many of the desks lined up facing each other.

 

McAlister adds that while everyone is cognizant of being respectful of those around them, it can still be hard to take a phone call. “If a call goes on too long, I start to feel like I should cut it short so as not to disturb those around me.”

 

Despite these minor inconveniences, the benefits of a co-working space are many and may offer just the kind of connection and stimulation you need to take your small business to the next level.

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

There are many traits that go into being a successful small business owner. For starters, they are positive, committed, enthusiastic, and creative. They are also hard working and typically fearless. Finally, you could also say that, generally speaking, they like to be in control.

 

That last factor especially makes a lot of sense.

 

If you are going to leave the comfort and security of a job with its attendant paychecks and benefits for the far more risky life of an entrepreneur, it is logical that you will want to be in charge of as many aspects of the new engagement as possible. According to a recent article in Entrepreneur, “the truth is Steve Jobs was known for the same thing. So were Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. So are Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg...That’s who they are. That’s how they roll.”Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

So yes, entrepreneurs like predictability and want to be able to control as many variables in the business equation as they can. It should then follow that the one thing that can really make a small business owner sweat is a lack of control.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

As such, it probably comes as no surprise that this unprecedented 2016 election finds small business owners nervous.

 

These are just part of the fascinating findings in the spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR.) For small business owners, “anxiety is high regarding the impact of the fall elections, the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders and health care costs, possibly explaining why small businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach before making plans for hiring and growth.”

 

The report goes on to note, “nearly four out of five (79 percent) of small business owners express concern over the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders. In addition, 67 percent say the presidential election will affect their business “a lot” or “somewhat.” Think about that for a moment. Politicians talk about a lot of different policies, many of which actually have little bearing on the day-to-day lives of a particular set of voters. Yet, it’s remarkable that 2/3 of small business owners surveyed saw a correlation between the upcoming elections and their own local business.

 

 

This uncertainty is having some very real world consequences, having an effect small business owners’ plans for growth:

 

  • Last year, 63% of small business owners surveyed in the SBOR said that they expected to grow their business over the course of the 12 months. This year, that number dropped by 12 percentage-points, down to about only half (51%).
  • Similarly, last spring, 40% of small business owners said that at least they expected their revenues to remain constant. This year that number is down almost 10%.

 

That being said, these numbers were also on the lower end when surveyed in previous election years in 2012 and 2014.

 

Small business owners can control a lot of things in their world. They can control who works for them and how much they are paid. They can control how customers are treated, what prices customers will pay, and what products and services they will sell.

 

But it turns out that it could be those things they cannot control which causes them the most stress, especially in this election year.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

I don’t want to name drop, but here is a fun story worth sharing:

 

A few years ago I was sitting in the green room for an MSNBC show called Your Business. I was waiting to go on and sitting next to me was a woman also getting ready to appear. As we chatted she shared that she had turned a $1,000 investment into a New York real estate empire.

 

As you may be able to guess, the woman was Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank fame. I loved her story so much that I asked her if she had any tips on how she had made her small business so big (as I am always looking for tips.)

 

“Especially in the beginning, I always strived to make my business look bigger than it was,” she told me. Barbara gave the example of press releases her business would put out, for example, “The Top 5 Celebrity Apartments in New York.” The press would pick up her releases and before long she had created a reputation as a celebrity real estate broker.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

And while that was of course very important to the growth of her brand and business, she said that it was her two-step planning process that made an even bigger difference.

 

Barbara said that every year, she would ask herself and her team two simple questions:

 

1. “Where do we want to be in one year?”

 

Most small business people fall into one of two categories when it comes to business planning:

 

  • Either they are true believers and they have a hefty business plan that they spent a lot of time creating, or
  • They have no business plan and don’t want to be bothered to take the time necessary to create one

 

The beauty of Barbara’s strategy is that it is a bridge between the two camps. Instead of devoting a lot of time creating an exhaustive business plan, what Barbara suggests is that you distill your business vision down to its core.

 

Where do you want to be at this time next year?

 

Say for example that you own a blow-dry bar. You likely spend most of your time serving customers and getting the word out. You don’t have a lot of time for business planning. Fair enough. And that is why this first question is so important.

 

For example, if your vision is to open a second location within the year, then there’s your goal. Now let’s answer Barbara’s second question:

 

2. “What resources do we need to get there?”

 

Again, this cuts to the chase. Once you answer the first question, then really, it is just a matter of figuring out how to get there, and that’s the purpose of the second question. Figuring out what you need to accomplish your goal is the key.

 

What resources would the small business owner of the blow-dry bar need in order to accomplish her goal of opening up a second location within twelve months? For starters, she would need access to capital. She would also need to find the right location and would need to put together a team who could help her implement this vision. All of a sudden, the owner knows both where she wants to go and what she needs to do to get there.

 

Of course, your answers will be unique to your business, but the point is the same. Ask yourself and your team these two questions:

 

1. Where do we want to be in a year?

 

2. What resources do we need to get there?

 

This plan is deceptive in its simplicity. That is why you should do it. It is easy, it makes sense, and it worked for one of the best-known and most successful entrepreneurs.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

One time I decided that I needed to take my own advice, so I launched a paid search campaign targeting (what I thought were) meeting planners looking to hire small business speakers like myself. 

 

Instead, I lost money just to find out who I was targeting were actually looking for a different type of small business speaker.

 

There is definitely a learning curve with a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, so I am here to make sure you learn the easy way and not the hard way. The steps to paid search success are as follows:

 

1. Consider your keywords: The point of your ad campaign is to send highly targeted, qualified traffic to a landing page or pages on your website. Therefore, your first job is to figure out what keywords will work best to drive people to your website. Accordingly, you want to micro-target those words and phrases, avoiding broader terms. For instance, if you sell gardening supplies in Denver, you will want a webpage and ad that focuses on, say, “Roses” and “Denver” and not “Gardening” and “Colorado.”

 

Google has a keyword analyzer tool that can help you.

 

2. Pick your network: Generally speaking, you can display ads on Google, Bing/Yahoo, or Facebook. There are of course many other options (Yelp, etc.), depending upon your goals. So you need to do some research and figure out which best fits your needs.

 

There are also networks that will evenly distribute your ads for you and automatically re-calculate and re-post them, depending upon the results you are getting in.

 

Example: YP.com, and Dex.com.

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

3. Create your ad: You don’t have a lot of room, and basically only three or four lines with a paid search ad, so you better use it effectively. You will need:

 

  • A bold heading that grabs their attention!! (See?)
  • A line explaining the benefit
  • A call to action

 

For example, your ad might say

 

The best gardening gloves in the world!

Never buy another pair of gardening gloves again

On sale, this week only, 15% off”

 

4. Consider ad extensions: Sitelink extensions are extra pieces of information that you can include in your ad that people may also want to click on, for example, store hours, and popular products.

You can learn more here.

 

5. Consider what constitutes success: Trying to buy ads that always show up first or buying highly popular words is very expensive. Less expensive words and placement can sometimes do the trick just as well.

 

6. Set a budget: Set aside enough time and money to really see if this will pay off for you, and make sure your budget includes the ability to test more than one ad, more than one headline, more than one call to action, more than one landing page, and so on.

 

Which brings me to…

 

7. Test, test, test: Testing is key. You want to come up with the right combination of advertisement, call to action, price, and landing page. Once you figure that out, then the ad should be a money maker for years to come; money while you sleep. But that will only happen if you test and test some more.

 

8. Monitor your results: One mistake I made when I had my speaker ad debacle was that I didn’t monitor my results quickly enough. One of the beautiful things about a PPC campaign is that you can monitor in real time and will know very quickly if what you are doing is working.

 

You need to monitor key words and phrases, headlines, times of day for clicks, better and worse days for clicks, and so on. A good test often lasts at least a month.

 

Google Adwords makes this easy with its conversion tracking.

 

9. Review with Google Analytics: Analytics is a great tool to help you understand the actions of people on your site – where they came from, how long they stayed, what they did, to name a few.

 

Learn more here.

 

A great search ad can become one of the best friend’s that your small business can have and it would behoove you to take the time to find the combination that works best for you.

 

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 listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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.

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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