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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.


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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.


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Leasing options can help you to reserve your working capital, manage your credit, and still invest in the equipment your small business needs to pursue its growth targets. Tracking industry trends for 2015 can help you make the right leasing decisions for your company. In addition, you’ll want to learn more about planned changes to accounting rules that will alter the way equipment lease expenditures are reported. These 2015 industry trends and changes in accounting rules can help you assess your company’s equipment leasing options


1.   Introduction

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to have cash management concerns distract you from your company’s core areas of focus. At the same time, you need to conserve your working capital and make the most strategic use of your lines of credit as you pursue new opportunities in areas such as marketing, R&D, and expansion. And to complicate matters further, you need to invest in equipment to keep your company competitive and positioned for growth. Depending on your needs and objectives, leasing may make sense for your company when the time comes to acquire new equipment.


According to the Equipment Leasing and Financing Association (ELFA), that time may be now. The organization predicts that 2015 will see record spending of “nearly $1.5 trillion in capital goods or fixed business investment (including software).” That figure accounts for spending by U.S. businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. On the business side, the hike in spending is seen as a sign of economic confidence and expectations of expansion, as companies in some industries see capacity utilization rates “reach or surpass levels historically known to spur business investment.”


2.   Taking stock of the industry trends

ELFA predicts a “healthy growth rate of 6 percent” in equipment and software investment this year. It adds that “aircraft, trucks, and other industrial equipment are projected to be among the higher growth types, while agriculture, computers, and software are expected to see slower growth.”


With the Federal Reserve expected to raise short-term interest rates in 2015, the organization predicts that businesses will “seek to lock in equipment financing at lower rates.” In fact, it has forecast a trend toward the use of financing for 62 percent of businesses’ $922 billion in expenditures on plant, equipment, and software this year.


Technological advances are supporting the move toward increased financing. “Equipment finance providers are streamlining their business processes and improving customer self-service capabilities using digital technologies,” ELFA finds. “To meet customer demand and address evolving technology equipment requirements, equipment finance companies will tailor innovative financial offerings.”


3.   Taking reporting rule changes into account

In addition to tracking these 2015 trends, ELFA has its eye on an upcoming change in accounting rules that will have an impact on the way businesses account for equipment leases. Lease consultant Bill Bosco of Leasing 101, a member of the ELFA accounting committee, was sponsored by the organization as a working member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) task force to change the accounting rules. He explains that the Lease Accounting Project was initiated by FASB, which establishes accounting rules in the U.S., at the direction of the Securities and Exchange Commission.


“The project’s major objective is to record operating leases as an asset and a liability on the balance sheet of any company that has to report audited financial statements,” Bosco says. “So it’s going to apply to small- and medium-sized enterprises that have to put out audited financial statements for their banks. The objective is to show readers of financial statements what the liability was for operating leases as well as what the value of the right to use the asset is that arises from those operating leases.”


The project began in 2006, and to understand its evolution, it’s helpful to have some background on where accounting rules and practices stood at that starting point. “Operating leases are currently off balance sheet, and what that means is that neither an asset nor a liability appears on the books, but a company reports rent expense,” Bosco explains. “They accrue the average rent, and they pay the actual rent for any equipment that they’re leasing or any office space or retail store space.”


Under that practice, financial statements record only rent expense, and companies footnote future rent obligations, he adds. “That’s so people like lenders can understand what your company is obligated for that might not be on the balance sheet when they’re making a decision as to

whether or not to lend you money.” The SEC decided that it was better practice to include that information on the balance sheet, and that decision led to FASB’s creation of the Lease Accounting Project.


4.   Scaling the changes to small business capacity

The details of the initial proposed change sparked concern among small business owners and leasing industry professionals. “People were worried about the complexity of this,” Bosco says.


“A small business doesn’t have a big accounting staff.” But the project has evolved through many iterations and much public comment since its inception, and based on industry input and public comment, FASB opted for a rule that puts the present value of rents on the balance sheet as an asset and a liability but does not call the liability debt.


“That’s an important point. They made it easier to comply because of the way they decided to handle the P&L and the balance sheet,” Bosco says. “The P&L is going to stay exactly the same. A small- or medium-sized company, or any company for that matter, would for operating leases approve the average rent expense if it’s an uneven rent lease, and pay the actual rent expense, same as you do today—so you don’t have to change your rent payment process or your rent cost accounting process.”


Another area of concern was that the new rule would have a negative impact on small companies’ credit ratings, but that fear is unfounded, Bosco says. “Your credit is not going to change at all, because lenders and credit rating agencies always look at operating leases in the footnotes. Just because FASB says you’ve got a new asset and liability doesn’t change your ability to pay your debts, so your credit rating isn’t going to change.”


5.   Getting a handle on it all—and preparing for compliance

What does the impending change mean, in practical terms, to you as a small business owner? When the new rules go into effect, you’ll “put the present value of the lease on the books each month with the new present value and reverse the old present value,” he says. “You can actually do it on an Excel spreadsheet. All you’ve got to do is put at the head of the column a present value calculation using your incremental borrowing rate, which is the rate that you’d pay on a loan of the same term as the lease. Put that at the top of the column, do a PV calculation, and make an entry debiting right-of-use asset and crediting other lease liability. It’s that simple.”


In its latest iteration, which is supposed to be signed toward the end of this year, the rule “will give users of financial statements better information, but it will not penalize companies that are leasing equipment as the original project would have,” Bosco says. He notes that the FASB made a great effort to simplify the accounting changes prompted by the new rule and to make compliance less costly.


It’s also important to remember that the new rule will not go into effect for companies until 2018, so you’ll have time to prepare for the change. But by educating yourself about the new rules now, you’ll be better equipped to understand the full impact of your equipment leasing decisions. And that, in turn, will help you to devise your most productive and profitable strategy for investing in your company’s long-term growth and success.


6.   Resources

The ELFA maintains the Equipment Finance Advantage website, which offers a variety of resources for small business owners:  


If you’re new to equipment leasing, these ten questions help you evaluate your options and assess the financing terms you’re offered. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/10qs.cfm


This chart provides a point-by-point comparison of leases versus loans.http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/ef101/llc.cfm


Refer to this online glossary when you need assistance understanding terminology used in the lease agreements you’re offered. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/ef101/glossary.cfm


This Digital Toolkit not only reviews the basics of equipment leasing, but also explains how it can work as part of your asset management strategy. http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/Toolkit/


Wondering which trends the equipment leasing industry is tracking this year and how these developments might affect your small business? This article provides an overview of what to watch.

http://www.equipmentfinanceadvantage.org/rsrcs/articles/10Trends.cfm


Time Value Software created this equipment lease rate calculator to help evaluate your leasing costs.

http://tcalc.timevalue.com/all-financial-calculators/lease-calculators/equipment-lease-rate-calculator.aspx


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


Robb-Hilson3.pngBy Robb Hilson

 

We recently released the spring 2015 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semiannual study that uncovers the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners around the country.

 

We’re happy to say that confidence in the economy remains steady compared with one year ago. In addition, two-thirds (66 percent) of small business owners are optimistic about the growth of their businesses over the next five years. Sixty-four percent of small business owners, however, note that their businesses are still recovering from the “Great Recession” of 2008. Most have yet to reach a full recovery.

 

One of the notable findings of the survey is the tendency of small business owners to be self-sacrificing, putting the needs of employees above their own. Sacrifices include accumulating personal debt or delaying their own compensation, versus laying off employees or delaying employee compensation.

 

Employee appreciation programs are widespread and offered by nearly all (94 percent) of small business owners. Popular forms of expressing appreciation include team outings, spot bonuses, office recognition and extra time off. Small business owners also favor customer appreciation programs, feeling that repeat business stems from strong customer relationships. This sentiment is strongest among Baby Boomer owners.

 

Bank of America appreciates the tremendous contributions that small business owners make to the U.S. economy, which is why we’ve planned several special events throughout our “Small Business Month” of May. We’re hoping not only to honor small business owners but also to provide useful insights and expertise through special product offers and local events. In San Francisco, we’re proud to celebrate small business owners by being a presenting sponsor of San Francisco Small Business Week, taking place May 16-22.

 

We’ll also be hosting a Google Hangout on May 20 to discuss some of the themes that have emerged from our spring 2015 Small Business Owner Report. Panelists for the Hangout include Jill Calabrese Bain, Managing Director and Small Business Banking National Sales Executive, Preferred & Small Business Banking for Bank of America; Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & SmallBizDaily.com; and Nikhil Arora, co-founder of Back to the Roots. USA TODAY columnist and small business expert Steve Strauss will moderate. We hope you’ll tune in by checking out the Bank of America Google+ page Wednesday, May 20, at 8pm ET.

SustainableEntrepreneurship.jpgA new generation of leaders is learning how to apply business practices to the pursuit of social and environmental missions, according to a new book entitled, Understanding Social Entrepreneurship: The Relentless Pursuit of Mission in an Ever Changing World by New York University professors Jill Kickul and Thomas Lyons. Business writer Cathie Ericson recently caught up with co-author Lyons to discuss how business and social entrepreneurship skills complement each other, and why social and environmental sustainability can drive economic growth.


Click here to download the PDF.

Sustainability.jpgAccording to the 2013 Small Business Sustainability Report, 79 percent of the business owners surveyed reported that "offering green products and services gave their business a competitive advantage," and that sales actually spiked during the recent economic downturn. Whether your business runs a broad-based sustainability operation or is integrating green practices on a smaller scale, customers seem to be supporting those efforts with their wallets. Business owners are finding new and innovative ways to be both profitable and environmentally responsible, as these three entrepreneurs are proving.


Click here to download the PDF.

Entrepreneur_Obstacles_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.


Entrepreneurs have a reputation for being brash and bold innovators. And yet a successful company is built on more than a great idea. We asked a small business coach and a longtime business owner to identify some of the most common roadblocks to success, and share tips for clearing the obstacles.


Undefined goals

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? That’s what business coach Jennifer Martin of San Francisco-based Zest Business Consulting asks her clients.


Martin says every small business owner must start with clearly defined, written goals. But some entrepreneurs skip this step in their eagerness to get to market. “They don’t actually take time to create a vision,” Martin says. Her solution: Create a two-year outline of everything you want to achieve, from a client base to market share to revenue.


Too many to-dos

With goals in place, it’s time to begin work in earnest. But Martin says many small business owners pile up the action items without prioritizing their to-do lists. They risk becoming overwhelmed because it seems like everything is a priority that has to be accomplished now.


That’s almost never the case, Martin says. “What they really need to be doing is focusing on the action that will get them traction,” she says. Make your own determination about where to put your resources. Devoting hours a week to promoting your business on social media, she says, may not bring you the same return as developing referral partners among other businesses who serve your ideal client or customer.


Entrepreneur_Obstacles_PQ.jpgRushing the process

One of the most important skills small business owners can cultivate is learning how to run their company at the right pace, says Karen Fichthorn, a founder of Fichthorn Brand Development in Sanibel, Florida. Try breaking a large task into smaller ones, especially if you’re still working another job while you get your business off the ground. “Achieve just one thing per day,” Fichthorn says. For example, if your list item is “Establish a trademark,” start by researching attorneys one day, then making an appointment the next. In a year, you’ll have achieved about 200 tasks on the one-a-day plan.


Fear of failure

On the contrary, an entrepreneur must be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. Martin says many business owners were fantastic employees, but they struggle with setting their own structure and being generous with themselves when something goes wrong. Instead of fixating on what went wrong, the experts say small business owners need to rally in order to find the lesson in the misstep or failure and keep moving forward.

 

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.

 

 

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