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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

RELATED ARTICLE: BEWARE THE NICKEL & DIMERS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Ebong Eka

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Ebong Eka by clicking here

 

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

          

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. Why do you shop or work with us?

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

 

2. What do we do well?

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

About Carol Roth

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

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

                                                                                    

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

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

 

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

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

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

 

1. Virtual Offices

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

 

2. Automation

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

 

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

 

3. Going Paperless

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Shama Hyder

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1.     Go early

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

2.     Get your information organized

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

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE MAGIC OF CREATING MULTIPLE PROFIT CENTERS

 

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

39307494_s.jpg

 

3.     Have a plan

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

 

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

 

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

 

4.     Negotiate!

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

 

About Carol Roth

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

You check out your options online, of course.

 

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

 

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


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. Authentic Behind-the-Scenes Content

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

 

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

 

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

 

66068892_s.jpg2. Influencer Backup

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

 

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

 

3. Radical Transparency

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Shama Hyder

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

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

                 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Those are some strong adjectives.

 

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

 

Why is that?

 

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

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE EASE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOING GREEN

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And yes, they love their work.

 

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

 

 


 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Get buy-in on your mission.

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

 

Listen to them.

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

 

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

 

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

 

71473407_s.jpgMake them heroes.

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

 

Give them flexibility.

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

 

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

 

Give them new opportunities.

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

 

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

 

Give a bonus for overall performance.

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

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

 

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

 

 


 

About Carol Roth

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

Yoobi Video

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

 

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

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

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

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

          

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

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

 

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

 

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

What’s Included

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

 

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

 

What It Means for You

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

 

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

 

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How to Use It

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

 

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

 

To get more value from the Retail Sales Report:

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

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

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

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

           

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Little changes can create big results.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 


About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

           

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

It is no fun to work for a bad boss.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Do you qualify for ACA tax credit?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

About Ebong Eka

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

 

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

 

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

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

                 

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

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