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2015
Steve Strauss

Tips from Santa

Posted by Steve Strauss Nov 20, 2015

Happy holidays all. Being as it is that magical time of year, it got me thinking about ‘ol Kris Kringle himself, Santa Claus.

 

What does Santa have to do with your business, you ask? Plenty, as it turns out. If there was ever a brand to be envied, it would have to be Santa Claus. So let me suggest that if you want to add some holiday cheer to your small business, you would be wise to be like Santa:

 

Steve-Santa.png

Ask them what they want, then give them what they want: A SCORE counselor gave me this tip many years ago, but it just as easily could have been shared by Santa. Santa of course, gets requests from children around the world and in turn works to give those good boys and girls the gifts they ask for. That is part of his appeal – his desire to please his audience.

 

Your small business should do the same. Ask your customers what they want, and then give it to them. I know a guy who owns a deli and when he started, he refused to put mustard on the tables, concluding that his chefs knew better about how much mustard belonged on a particular sandwich. The ensuing mustard uproar caused him to change course within a few months. “If they want to use mustard as they please," he told me, “who am I to stop them?”

 

Exactly.

 

Know your brand, and reinforce it again and again: Quick, what is the name of the jolly old chubby man in the red suit and white beard? Santa Clause, of course. Santa knows he is the brand and he is not seen in public without his trademark red suit.

 

And by the same token, Santa knows the value of a good tagline, his infamous: “Ho, ho, Ho!” He uses it repeatedly, to good effect.

 

It is sort of like the Nike swoosh and catchphrase, Just Do It. We all know the swoosh stands for Nike, and we all know that Nike stands for just doing it. Having a brand and catchphrase used consistently is a smart way to get your message across in a flash.

 

Be an inclusive manager: One thing that is certain about Santa Claus is that he must be a good manager. For starters, Santa clearly has a great team around him. Whether it’s the elves, Mrs. Claus, or his reindeer, Santa’s team is focused on the goal and they all work together to accomplish that goal.

 

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

 

By the same token, it seems obvious that like any good manager, Santa doesn’t mind sharing the credit for a job well done. Moms and dads often take credit for the work done by Santa and his elves, but he clearly doesn’t seem to mind.

 

Finally, Santa seems very willing to promote from within and trust that his troops are capable. Take the case of Rudolph. It took a management genius like Santa Claus to see that Rudolph actually was a born leader waiting to shine. He is not just a little reindeer with a red nose.

 

Don’t be afraid to start from where you are: No, you may not have all the money you need to get started, but look at Santa – his business is based from his home and he employs his family. Use what you’ve got and go from there.

 

And finally, love what you do: Enthusiasm is infectious, and people love to work with enthusiastic people. Witness the global growth of Santa Claus. His passion, giving nature, positive energy (and ability to hit a deadline on time) have catapulted him to global success.

 

So this year, I say to you dear readers, be like Santa, give it away, and we hope you have a Happy Holiday season!

 

About Steve Strauss

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

http://www.smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/people/Steve%20Strauss/content

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

metrics.jpgAs the year draws to a close, business owners should make time to assess their company's performance in 2015—what worked, what needs to be changed, where their profits came from—and use it as a guide to figure out what they want to achieve in 2016. Owners might be tempted to measure every part of their operation, but read on to see what metrics you need to get an accurate snapshot of the state of your business at year's end.


Click to download the PDF.

Main Street Is Open for Business: Bank of America Survey Reveals Strong Economic Outlook Among Small Business Owners

Small Business Owner Optimism and Confidence in the Economy Is at Its Highest Level Since 2012

 

SBOR-Fall-Thumb2.gifAmerica’s small businesses are gearing up for growth. According to the fall 2015 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, small business optimism is at its highest since the survey’s inception in 2012, with expectations for revenue growth and plans to hire hitting a three-year high.

 

The report, based on a semi-annual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country, revealed that 72 percent expect their revenue to increase in the next 12 months, compared with 62 percent a year ago. In addition, more small businesses expect to increase staffing, with 67 percent planning to hire more employees over the next 12 months, up significantly from 51 percent in the fall of 2014 and 31 percent in the fall of 2013.

 

Confidence in the local, national and global economies rose as well:

  • Sixty-two percent expressed optimism for their local economies (a 12 percentage point rise year over year).
  • Fifty-six percent expressed optimism for the national economy (an 11 percentage point rise year over year).
  • Forty-five percent expressed optimism for the global economy (a 14 percentage point rise year over year).

 

This optimism was seen even as small business owners expressed apprehension over the 2016 presidential election, minimum wage hikes and an increase in interest rates, as more than one-third of those surveyed expressed concern that these factors could impact their business in 2016.

 

“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in optimism among small business owners in the economy, revenue growth and hiring,” said Robb Hilson, Bank of America Small Business executive. “Even with instability in the global markets and the uncertainty they have about the upcoming election, small business owners are confident and ready to expand their businesses. They are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and we commend them for their entrepreneurial spirit and stamina through a challenging economic time.”

 

Not surprisingly, this expected growth demands more capital. More than one in three small business owners (35 percent) say they will apply for a loan in 2016, an 11 percentage point increase over one year ago. In addition, the number of small business owners who report they have applied for a loan in the past two years has increased by more than 50 percent in the last 12 months, rising from 29 to 44 percent.

 

Small business owners embrace workplace 2.0

The workplace culture of the traditional small business appears to be changing, as working environments become more technology-oriented and flexible. For example, most small business owners (88 percent) say that technology is helping them better serve customers, and half have invested in new technology over the past five years to better connect with employees. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) report that they are investing in technology upgrades one or more times per year.

 

Callout2.gifForty-seven percent of small business owners are now offering telecommuting options – a 12 percentage point jump from five years ago. Most small business owners report a positive impact from this shift, including a better attitude in employees (59 percent) and increased productivity (54 percent). However, some small business owners expressed concerns that telecommuting makes employees unreliable or inaccessible (34 percent), or harder to trust (33 percent).

 

Employee benefits are also changing, with small businesses taking a page out of the startup book by offering perks like areas to relax or unwind such as nap pods and game rooms (20 percent), pet-friendly work environments (11 percent) or onsite gyms and fitness classes (8 percent).

 

Small businesses prepare for cyber-attacks as holiday season draws near

As technology advances, so do cybersecurity threats. More than one in 10 (12 percent) small business owners report that they have been the victim of a cybersecurity breach. With technology being so prevalent, more than half (59 percent) have expressed concern over protecting their proprietary data, and 66 percent report they have taken measures to be prepared for a cyber-attack.

 

These measures may pay off during the holiday shopping season. Small business owners expect a boost to their business bottom line during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, even more so than a year ago, with 31 percent expecting Black Friday to provide a bump in sales in 2015 (compared to 17 percent in 2014), and 43 percent expecting Cyber Monday to have an impact on their business’ bottom line, compared to 29 percent one year ago.

 

Local insights across the country

The report also analyzed the mindset of small business owners in nine local markets across the country. Key insights gathered include:

 

  • Like their national counterparts, most small business owners in a number of markets are planning for growth over the next five years. Small business owners in Washington, D.C. (81 percent), Miami (80 percent) and Dallas/Fort Worth (78 percent) plan to grow their business over the next five years. Additionally, small business owners in Atlanta (73 percent), San Francisco (71 percent) and Metro New York (70 percent) expect their revenues to increase in the next year.

 

  • Optimism in an improving local economy followed the national trend within local markets as Washington, D.C. (65 percent), Dallas/Fort Worth (63 percent) and Boston (52 percent) small business owners are feeling increasingly confident in their local economy compared to one year ago. In fact, Los Angeles was the only market surveyed where local small business owners were less confident that their local economy would improve over the next 12 months (53 percent, versus 62 percent in fall 2014).

 

  • Small business owners across all markets, including Chicago (44 percent), Washington, D.C. (42 percent) and Los Angeles (41 percent), agree with their national counterparts that their workplace has become more tech-focused over the past five years. In addition, San Francisco (50 percent) and Washington, D.C. (47 percent) small business owners feel that their workplace has become more collaborative.

 

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, download the entire fall 2015 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (PDF), and for additional insights, download a PDF version of the Small Business Owner Report national infographic here.

Info-Thumb.gifIt's the time of year when small business owners can reflect on what they've accomplished, and look forward to the year ahead. With data taken from our Bank of America Fall Small Business Owners Report, take a look at how many have reached their goals for the year, their feelings about the impact of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and how they plan to reward employees during the upcoming holiday season.


Click here to view the infographic.  


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



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Icon-sm.gifUp to 40% of annual sales can come
during the holidays, so we’ve compiled
some simple ideas, tips and best practices
to help you have the best season possible. 
Click here

Delegating_body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.


The old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” is often the mindset of small business owners. After all, the majority have built their businesses from the ground up, and it can be hard to relinquish control of any aspect.


But that mentality could be holding you back. For one thing, it could contribute to burnout: 85 percent of small business owners say they work more than 40 hours per week on average, with 30 percent reporting more than 60 hours in an average week.


Failure to delegate can impact your business in another way: It can affect your bottom line.


Key reasons to delegate

“When you delegate, you have more time to nurture higher revenue producing opportunities,” says Sharron Senter, a small business marketing consultant with more than a decade of marketing and business operations experience.


Phil Strazzulla, founder of LifeGuides, an online employer branding platform, admits that he’s not a fan of delegating, but has found that if he tries to control every aspect of his business, it stalls. For example, in the early days of his business he taught himself to code and used his expertise to build his company’s initial product. But as the business grew, he knew that his main strengths were in attracting new customers and building revenue, not coding.


Delegating_PQ.jpg“I finally relinquished the coding responsibilities to my team and immediately found myself with 50 percent more time to work on growing our revenues,” he says. “Clearly that was a smart tradeoff, and one I wish I'd realized earlier in our company's life.”


Senter advises owners to use that newly available time to plan for both the short- and long-term growth of the business. She recommends business owners spend focused time reviewing such data as customer feedback, sales trends, website traffic, competitor activity, alternative sales channels and marketing communication vehicles. “This allows small business owners to find additional avenues to create new revenue streams and more efficient sales channels.”


What to delegate
When you have an IT or marketing team in place, you shouldn’t hesitate to delegate related tasks. In fact, as Strazzulla found, delegating empowers your staff to realize that you trust them with critical work. 


But even if you don’t have a cadre of specialists, there are functions that any small business owner can jettison to free up time. These include such tasks as:

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Answering phones and routine emails
  • Handling social media, including responding to comments and answering questions
  • Creating billing reports and invoices
  • Ordering supplies


Senter recommends that small business owners ask their employees or virtual assistants to have the first crack at developing the scripts and processes that will be followed. “This underscores the spirit of delegating, while also allowing you to retain some degree of control by identifying what’s missing and finalizing the documents,” she says.


Learning how to delegate does not come naturally to most small business owners, but it’s an important skill that can be learned. Your staff will know you trust them, and your time can be better spent growing your business, not managing the day-to-day details.

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

holiday.jpgIn December 2013, thousands of packages promised for delivery by Christmas didn't arrive until after the holiday. An unprecedented surge in last-minute orders coupled with severe winter storms resulted in massive delays for UPS and FedEx.


Even if a delay isn't your company's fault, it can leave customers with a bad impression of your brand. Read on to discover how small businesses can plan for the holiday rush and control the factors that can keep customers happy.


Click to download the PDF.

 

 

 

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Icon-sm.gifUp to 40% of annual sales can come during the holidays, so we’ve compiled some simple ideas, tips and best practices to help you have the best season possible.  Click here

Vine_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Vine is a mobile app from Twitter that lets you post a six-second video that plays in a continuous loop.

 

The challenges of squeezing a message or telling a story in such a tight timeframe are obvious. Yet many businesses have been emboldened to come up with video clips that capture customers and prospects. Outbound Engine, an Austin, Texas-based content marketing agency specializing in small business marketing, suggests these ways for making your Vine videos stand out:

 

1. Show yourself.

Let people see the human side of your company. A video that introduces you or your staff is a welcome change from websites that are often faceless or impersonal. Inserting something quirky or idiosyncratic that expresses your personality—as long as it is tasteful and appropriate for a business message—can also distinguish you.

 

2. Give your product the star treatment.

Put your products in front of the camera and make them the stars. What can you say in six seconds that is attention getting, clever, or appealing about your product line? Demonstrate different uses for a product or highlight the options that come with it. Shooting the product from an unusual angle can also grab attention.

 

Vine_PQ.jpg3. Give a tour of your office.

Showing what your offices look like or giving a behind-the-scenes tour of areas where you do your work—such as the factory floor—instills authenticity and believability in you and your products.

 

4. Add life to your announcements.

Any newsworthy event coming from your business can be a subject for Vine. One place to look for topics is the News page on your website. The next time you issue a press release about a milestone, product announcement, sale, or contest, turn it into a video and post it through Vine, too.

 

5. Record customer testimonials.

Whenever you get a positive review or endorsement, make a video and post it. For even greater interaction with your customers, ask them to submit video testimonials. User-generated content is a powerful involvement tool that reinforces customer loyalty. Or make a video of one of your team members reading a customer testimonial.

 

With only a smartphone and Twitter account, creating a Vine video can be a simple, fun, and exciting way to showcase your business, team, products, and services in a mere six seconds.

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

business.JPGSmall business owners often spend so much time on the daily tasks of running a company that they lose sight of their financial benchmarks. It’s not just worthwhile; it’s essential to block out time to review your 2015 goals to ensure a more profitable, productive 2016.

 

In addition to reviewing operational, sales, marketing, and employee relations targets during a year-end review, business owners should assess three key financial components: budgeting, cash flow, and account receivables. Read on to discover how planning now can help your small business grow to the next level.

 

Click to download the PDF.

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