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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.

 

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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.


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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.


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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.

dental.jpgAlthough they perform a vital service in helping to maintain our oral health, a trip to the dentist isn't on any top ten lists for ways to have a good time—and that makes it hard to find new patients. Since dentists receive little or no training in school on how to advertise and promote their practice, some turn to marketing firms that cater to their specialty. But even practices that prefer to handle things in-house can see an uptick in the number of patients in their waiting room by changing the way they run and brand themselves, as these experts explain.


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Video Replay of the Live Google Hangout: Finding Talent and Balance

 

 

Welcome to the Small Business Social Series sponsored by Bank of America. This panel will explore the sacrifices and commitments small business owners make to their employees and customers as they work towards growth. Topics include findings from our May Small Business Owner Report, employee training and development, and how small business owners can find the balance between success and self-sacrifice.

The panel was moderated by Steve Strauss, and you will hear from:

  • Jill Calabrese Bain, Bank of America Managing Director and Small Business Banking National Sales Executive
  • Rieva Lesonsky, CEO GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com
  • Nikhil Arora, Back to the Roots Co-founder

Jill-Headshot_SM.pngBy Jill Calabrese Bain

 

Last month I participated in a Google Hangout with Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media and SmallBiz Daily; Nikhil Arora, co-founder of Back to the Roots; and USA TODAY senior small business columnist Steve Strauss entitled, “Small Business Success: Finding Talent and Balance.”  During our 30-minute discussion, the panelists shared their experiences making sacrifices for their business and offered advice for small business owners looking to find the balance between self-sacrifice and success.

 

Small business owners are very dedicated to their businesses, with a strong drive to succeed no matter what it takes. In fact, the Bank of America spring 2015 Small Business Owner Report found that 67 percent of small business owners would delay or reduce their own pay before taking any other action, including laying off employees or reducing employees’ compensation. However, a few sacrifices we commonly see entrepreneurs taking may be unnecessary—and could do more harm than good.

  • Trying to do it all by yourself. Many small business owners are saying it’s difficult to find qualified job candidates with realistic salary expectations, and therefore take on more work themselves. Consider investing in training and development for your current team; your employees will feel appreciated; and having happy employees often leads to happier clients. Additionally, better trained resources will free up more time for you to think strategically about your business and future growth opportunities.

  • Sacrificing personal finances.  According to the spring report, more than a third (35 percent) of small business owners have carried business costs on a personal credit card. In addition, 29 percent have taken out a personal loan. If you fall behind on payments, you could jeopardize your personal credit, affecting your ability to achieve personal and business financial success. Resources are available. Consider consulting with your accountant, small business banker, or other trusted advisor, to help manage through the options.

  • Failing to reward yourself and recharge. Nearly all (94 percent) small business owners from our survey reported that they offer employee appreciation programs, including team outings, office recognition and extra time off. However, more than half of small business owners we surveyed said that they haven’t given themselves a raise in more than two years…or ever! You would never ask your employees to work 40+ hours without a pay increase or vacation, so don’t ask yourself to do so either. Allow yourself time to recharge. Whether it’s a short vacation or taking time each week to exercise or socialize, it’s important to invest in yourself!


All small business owners know they must make sacrifices for their business from time-to-time. However, make sure you are thoughtful about which sacrifices you do make in order to give yourself and your business the best chance for long term success.  For additional thoughts on these topics and more, you can watch a recorded replay of the Google Hangout. Check it out by clicking here.

subcontractor.jpgWhen a small business has an overflow of work but not enough to justify hiring a full-time employee, working with a subcontractor can be an efficient, money-saving strategy. Besides handling the extra workload, a subcontractor may also bring other desirable skills and expertise that a small business can tap beyond the original assignment. Training subcontractors in the protocols of your workplace, such as how to deal with your clients, and treating them like regular employees can often result in mutually beneficial relationships—and sometimes in a firm job offer—as the following examples demonstrate.


Click here to download PDF.

Business_Plan_body.jpgBy Iris Dorbian.

Providing a clear outline of goals—and how to reach them, a business plan is a critical tool for every entrepreneur. It's what separates a business that has yet to formally launch from a mere idea, lending it substance and tangibility. When seeking to obtain start-up capital, a business plan is a compelling document that can sway potential investors or financial institutions. Although business plans can vary depending on the company and the team involved, there are five essential elements that every plan should have:

Executive summary
This is a simple and concise summary of your business that can run anywhere from one to two pages. It should give the reader a firm grasp of what your business is about and what you are looking to achieve. Think of it as your outline, giving the reader a road map of what to expect when he or she reads the plan.

Sales forecast
Small business owners need to make informed revenue projections based on inventory, market, geography, and demand. How much do you expect to generate in sales during the first year? What about after five years? The estimates should be grounded in solid financial reporting and not simply pie-in-the sky conjectures. "Without a sales forecast, you really won't have an understanding of what your expenses and cash flow will be," explains Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Eugene, Oregon-based Palo Alto Software, a provider of business planning software. "And without [knowing the latter], you won't understand what kind of a loan or line of credit you will need to keep your business going," she adds.

Business_Plan_PQ.jpgMarketing
For this section, you will need to compile and incorporate data that pertains to the demographics of your target customer base. Who are they and how many of them live in your town and community? What advertising and/or marketing channels are you planning to leverage in order to reach them? Digital? Word-of-mouth? Print, TV, and radio? You will need to include specific details of a proposed marketing campaign that explains how and when you plan to utilize these channels and the results you hope to achieve.

SWOT analysis
This section of a business plan explains the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business (SWOT). Here it’s important that the business owner make an honest assessment of his or her particular work style and personality, notes Terry Powell, the founder of AdviCoach, a business coaching and advisory firm for small- to medium-sized businesses.

“Anticipating any issues that may arise from both the business and leadership side will make business owners better prepared for the long road ahead,” he explains.

Competition
Who will you compete against in your target market? If it’s a saturated market, how do you plan on positioning your business and setting it apart from rivals? In other words, say the experts, be sure your business plan details your company’s competitive advantage and the specifc void in the marketplace it fills. “[The competition part of a business plan] is a great source of information on how you should market and where you should market,” says Parsons.

A business plan is an essential document when looking to secure financing from banks or private investors. It should give the reader a well-researched explanation of your business, where it sits among the competition, and what unique features or services it brings to its market. “[A business plan] is not about predicting the future,” insists Parsons. Rather its purpose, he says, is to present intelligent projections that can be instrumental in either launching or growing your business.

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 competent financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Print_Marketing_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.


The appeal of online marketing is undeniable: it’s a great way to target your small business’s message to a specific market, or track responses with sophisticated metrics. But marketing experts say there is still a great deal of value in running a print campaign.


Digital marketing is just one piece of an integrated marketing strategy, says marketing consultant Linda Prophal, owner of Strategic Communications in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and author of Direct Mail in the Digital Age.


“I think it’s important for business owners to understand their market from an accurate point of view versus assumptions,” Prophal says. “That’s what I see happening a lot. They think everybody’s all about the Internet, but that isn’t necessarily true. Think carefully about who you’re trying to reach.” Studies such as the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update can provide real insight on who is using social media, and how.


Who prefers print?

If you’re trying to reach adults age 35 and up, print ads and direct mail are an essential part of any campaign, Prophal says. They’re the ones most likely to respond to a message they see in print, as are people who are active in their communities and civic life. Trade journals are also an effective way for business-to-business firms to reach niche markets, Prophal says.


Less competition in the mailbox

Prophal says although direct mail is effective, there is less of it circulating. That’s an opportunity for your business to stand out. Surprisingly, it’s also an effective way to reach teens and young adults. Research by the U.S. Postal Service and the Direct Marketing Association found that people age 24 and younger respond well to direct mail because they simply don’t get much mail at all.


Print_Marketing_PQ.jpgBenefits of being hyperlocal

Local merchants and service providers can generate good results by marketing down to the neighborhood level with print ads and mail, says Liam Brown of Sidestep Coaching, based in Las Vegas. Consider a restaurant having a grand opening. Would a social media campaign be more effective, Brown asks, or a postcard invitation to all homes within a 10-block radius? Direct mail is still ideal for events and sales.


Print is trackable

Tracking response rates is not unique to digital marketing, Prophal says. Direct marketers love coupons for that very reason—send one out, and see how many come back. Today, she says, it’s important to integrate print messages with a call to action that drives customers online. Include a unique email address, a website landing page, or even a trackable phone number.


Finally, Prophal says, take the long view when it comes to dividing up your marketing dollars. “It’s not the initial cost of that placement that you should focus on,” she says, “but the cost per result.”


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.

 

medicalbilling.jpgWhile most doctors worked hard to study and master the intricacies of their particular specialty, their medical school education probably had little, if any, advice on how to run their practice efficiently. Besides making diagnoses and treating ailments, doctors are also in business for themselves, subject to the same concerns and responsibilities as other small business owners. Perhaps the most critical challenge for ensuring a healthy income stream involves the proper coding and billing of medical services to comply with insurance carriers and government regulations. We consulted with healthcare experts to gather some useful tips on how medical practices can collect their fees more promptly.


Click here to download the PDF.

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