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Thumb2.pngAs a business owner, you may frequently face the challenge of balancing your business needs with your individual needs. And more often than not, the business needs likely get more attention. But did you know a business retirement plan can help meet both your business needs and your individual needs, as well as those of your employees?

Click here to download the Small Business Retirement Solutions Reference Guide (PDF).

Outlook-Thumb.gifSmall business owners are feeling good about 2016. In a survey by the National Small Business Association, more than 70 percent said they are confident about the year ahead and nearly half are projecting growth for their business. Fifty-two percent plan to raise wages and one-third say they'll be hiring in 2016.

Read on to discover what else small business owners are saying about the year ahead and the ways in which they plan to grow their companies.

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

Because I write a Question and Answer column at USA TODAY, I naturally hear from many entrepreneurs. They share their ideas and strategies with me, along with tales of success (and, yes, sometimes failure.) 


One thing I hear about a lot is not loneliness per se, but rather, that when you work for yourself it sometimes is like being in a vacuum, or a bubble. You know what works for you and how you like to do things, but getting that invaluable perspective from your peers can be difficult.


If that describes you, let me suggest that you take a look at the latest edition of the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR.) The SBOR is Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pnga semi-annual survey that looks at the concerns, aspirations, and perspectives of small business owners around the country. It is always a great way to get a pulse on what other entrepreneurs are doing and thinking, and the fall 2015 iteration is no exception.


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

It turns out that according to this latest SBOR, the traditional workplace is indeed evolving:


Virtual work and offices are becoming more popular. It was once a novel notion that employees would work on the go. This is no longer true. Today, telecommuting and offering employees a mobile work option is prevalent. According to the latest SBOR:


The traditional office environment appears to be changing, with small business owners reporting that workplace culture has become more open to change in the past five years. In particular, the virtual office model is rising in popularity with 47 percent of small business owners now offering telecommuting options for employees, compared with 35 percent five years ago.


There is no doubt that telecommuting benefits the employee, but does it work for the owner too? You bet. The majority (59 percent) of the small business owner respondents stated that their employees are happier as a result and we all know that happy employees help create a successful business.


New perks abound: Traditionally, a small business owner would reward an employee with money, for example, a raise, a bonus, or better benefits. But one of the things I am seeing a lot in the new office, and what is borne out by the latest SBOR, is that entrepreneurs are getting more creative with how they are rewarding staff members. Consider these perks that were highlighted in the report:


  • Flextime was offered by 52 percent of respondents. And that makes sense. Flextime doesn’t really cost a business much and yet is something much valued by today’s work staff, especially Millennials.


  • Twenty percent said that they offer “areas to unwind,” like nap pods.


  • Seventeen percent  offer “office happy hours.” Not only is this another affordable option, but it is a great way to foster teamwork.


  • And how about this? Eleven percent said that one of their main perks is to offer a “pet friendly environment.”


New ways to hire emerge: One other significant change that we are seeing in the workplace, as reported in the latest SBOR, is that small business owners have been changing their hiring methods over the past few years. According to the report:

“30 percent are using social media platforms such as LinkedIn to find potential candidates, 29 percent are using social media sites such

While it doesn’t really matter whether you are using these tools and perks in your place of business, it is beneficial to know how others are adopting, and adapting to, all of this new technology. as Facebook and Instagram to vet potential candidates, and 22 percent are using technology such as Skype to conduct interviews.”

And in any case, if how they are doing business gives you some new ideas, that makes it all the better.


About Steve Strauss

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



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


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

©2015 Bank of America Corporation


Payroll_Best_Practices_body.jpgBy Cindy Waxer.

Most small businesses understand the value of smart payroll practices. But many fail to anticipate the negative impact of this business-critical activity if poorly executed. While a solid payroll system can keep employees happy and the government satisfied, poor payroll practices can create tax-related nightmares, send labor costs skyrocketing, and prompt an employee exodus.

Fortunately, small businesses need not invest millions in high-end software programs or high-priced consultants to make the most of payroll. Here, experts and entrepreneurs offer ways to put in place a world-class payroll practice on a small business budget.

The benefits of a do-it-yourself strategy

When it comes to payroll, using pen and paper or a simple Excel spreadsheet is still commonplace. That’s because a manual payroll system is easy to get off the ground and one of the most cost-efficient approaches to issuing checks and tracking payments. What’s more, a DIY-payroll system doesn’t have to bend to the constraints of an off-the-shelf software program, or cost small business owners thousands of dollars customizing a manual payroll system.

However, there is often an opportunity cost for entrepreneurs who take on the burden of handling their own payroll. After all, hours spent calculating overhead, figuring tax withholdings, and issuing payments translate into time not spent on things like refining your business’s current production capability, brainstorming new product ideas, or prospecting for new customers. These intangible losses won’t directly show up on a profit and loss statement, but after a few years of stagnant growth, an entrepreneur might discover that his or her time is too valuable to be devoted to back-office clerical work like payroll.

Deploy a software program that’s right for your business

These days, there’s no shortage of payroll software packages promising to simplify accounting, calculate and remit payroll taxes, print paychecks, ensure government compliance, and provide paystubs to employees.

Just ask Barbara Kittrell, owner of Kittrell/Riffkind Art Glass, anAddison, Texas-based art glass studio specializing in custom-stained glass. “When I used to do my taxes, it would take hours because I had no way of tracking it manually,” recalls Kittrell. “It used to take way longer and it all had to be done by hand and then verified.”

That is until Kittrell converted to a small business accounting and payroll software solution. Now, Kittrell says payroll activities that used to take an hour-and-a-half only require minutes to complete. Better yet, the system allows her to easily add and subtract new workers as they come and go, making it easy to adjust to seasonal workflows.

CrowdSPRING’s introduction to payroll software wasn’t quite as smooth as that of Kittrell’s but the adventure has since paid off. The Chicago-based online marketplace for buyers and sellers of creative services began with one payroll package that company co-founder Mike Samson, describes as nothing short of “awful.” Plagued by an unfriendly user interface and poor customer service, he eventually switched to a different software provider and now Samson says crowdSPRING’s employees couldn’t be happier.

“They have access to their accounts, they can print a copy of a check stub, or sign right in and have access to everything,” says Samson. “It saves us money and our employees love it because [with its direct deposit capabilities], nobody wants to have to deposit a paycheck nowadays.”



Consider outsourcing

Sometimes running the most seamless payroll processes means not running them at all. At least, not in-house. Many small businesses turn to third-party providers to oversee their payroll practices.

“Because of its complexities and the changing rules and regulations, I’m a fan of outsourcing payroll,” says Tom Gegax, founder of Gegax Advisors and author of The Big Book of Small Business. “A small business doesn’t want to mess around with payroll. Plus, it’s so inexpensive to outsource payroll—for a tiny company, it’s worth it.”

It’s easy to do the math. Simply calculate the number of hours your employees spend on a weekly basis tending to payroll activities. Then compare these costs to the price of the packages being offered by third-party providers. Don’t forget to factor in additional in-house costs such as printing expenses, distribution fees, creating tax documents, and more. Chances are, you’ll save money by handing over payroll activities to an outsourcing company.

But not all small business owners are ready and willing to sing the praises of outsourcing. As far as Samson is concerned, payroll software offers “phenomenal access to information” while outsourcing arrangements can make business owners feel as if they’ve lost control over their finances and payroll processes, so choose accordingly.

Be true to your company

Doing it yourself, using a payroll software package, or paying for a third-party provider—these are a small business owner’s major choices when it comes to satisfying your employees and providing the best possible payroll practices. But remember: Just as no two companies are alike, no two small businesses are likely to have the same set of processes. So decide what’s right for your specific company and your employees.

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

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