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2016

There was a time, not so long ago, when big was big. We had the “Big Three” automakers, three big television networks, two superpowers, and so on. Needless to say, things have changed, a lot. Back then, small business was a little deal. Today small business is a big deal. The biggest deal.

 

Whether it’s maverick entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg who started small and went on to change the world, or the rising tide of small businesses that are raising all economic ships, these days, little is the new big.

 

Consider:

 

  • There are 30 million businesses in the U.S., and today, 99% of those are small businesses. Most of those are one-person businesses;
  • More than half of the working population now works in a small business;
  • Small businesses have generated over 65% of net new jobs since 1995.

 

(Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Forbes.com.)

 

This begs the question; how did such a fundamental shift occur in such a short period of time? There are three interconnected trends that have combined to make this the golden age for small business:

 

1. A shift in attitudes: I recently returned from a business trip to Europe and had the chance to visit Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. The flashpoint of east-west tensions, the Berlin Wall was a physical manifestation of the bi-polar, big-is-big world. When the wall fell and communism crumbled, so too did this thinking.

 

It was also right around this time that China’s capitalist turn really began to pay dividends, as it had in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and so on. As a result, small businesses are now booming throughout Asia. This is in fact a trend we are seeing worldwide. Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

2. Technology: Coinciding with this shift in attitudes has been the technological computer revolution we are all witness to. It used to be that an entrepreneur could be just that – an entrepreneur. But that’s not enough these days. Today you have to let your inner geek out if you are going to succeed in the small business game, and that’s a good thing.

 

Whether we are talking about hardware, software, apps, printers, the cloud, social media, or what have you, the savvy entrepreneur will take advantage of all that technology has to offer these days.

 

And that brings me to the third shift powering the small business revolution:

 

3. The Internet. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a small business was stuck in its neighborhood. If the local economy was good, that was good enough.

 

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

 

One of the best things about the Internet vis-à-vis small business is that it has enabled any small business to escape the tyranny of being wedded only to the local economy. Any small business can now be a global business thanks to the Web.

 

Beyond that, the Internet evens-out the playing field. Online, any small business can look as big, and as professional, as any other business - and doing so is easy and affordable.

 

The bottom line is that today, no one needs to know that you are running your global empire out of your spare bedroom, and that is why this is the greatest time ever for small business. You and your small business are in good company.

 

Little is the new big.

 

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Erin O'Donnell.

 

BestCities_Body.jpgIf you're a woman starting or running a business, Tennessee is the place to be.

 

Earlier this year, the online credit monitoring website WalletHub released its study of the best and worst cities for women business owners. Three of the Volunteer State's metro areas ranked in the top five, including Nashville at the No. 1 spot. Chattanooga was in second place, and Memphis was in fourth. (Knoxville even made a good showing at No. 15.)

 

Rounding out the top five were Columbus, Ohio, in third place and Milwaukee, Wis., in fifth.

 

A WalletHub analyst noted how the state of Tennessee is prioritizing helping female entrepreneurs and improving their access to capital and other resources. There are nine small-business incubators in the state that are women-focused, which is more incubators than many states have in total. And these organizations are connecting women with investors and mentors that they may not otherwise reach.

 

In 2015, Tennessee was also chosen as one of only six locations for new Women’s Business Centers, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

 

The WalletHub survey looked at 10 key metrics to make the rankings, three of which were weighted most heavily:

  • Overall friendliness toward new business: Includes access to financing, office space availability, and labor costs.
  • Female entrepreneurship: How prevalent is female entrepreneurship in the area? Looks at the percentage of women-owned businesses, and their revenue and growth.
  • Business climate for women: Looks at gender inequality, such as the size of the wage gap between genders, and conditions for working mothers.

 

Here are a few more factors that propelled these cities to the top five:

 

BestCities_PQ.jpgNashville, Tenn.: The Music City has the third highest average revenue of women-owned businesses out of the 100 metro areas surveyed, and it had the best female entrepreneurship rank out of the top five cities. It's home to entrepreneurs such as Sarah Bellos, founder of Stony Creek Colors, which makes plant-based dyes for the textile industry to reduce water pollution from petroleum-based dyes. By 2015, Bellos had raised more than half a million dollars. She's an alumna of the Launch Tennessee incubator, a public-private partnership; about one-third of LaunchTN's recent masterclass graduates are female founders.

 

Chattanooga, Tenn.: Tennessee's fourth-largest city is home of the Jump Fund, which is the Southeast’s only female-focused angel fund. The fund's female investors put capital into early-stage companies led by women. One company they backed was Feetz, which makes custom shoes using 3-D printers. Founder Lucy Beard moved to Chattanooga from Silicon Valley. In the WalletHub survey, Chattanooga also ranked as the second most new-business-friendly metro area in the country (Tulsa was first).

 

Columbus, Ohio: Columbus ranked well in both female entrepreneurship and friendliness to new businesses. It's home to a handful of women-focused business centers, including the nonprofit Women’s Small Business Accelerator, which offers affordable office space to women along with peer-to-peer mentoring and funding resources. Thumbtack.com also lauded the city for its ease of starting a new business. And the suburb of Dublin was recognized by data-analysis firm GoodCall as the second-best city for women entrepreneurs to find "a healthy economy, a stable job market, and support from the local community and like-minded businesswomen."

 

Memphis, Tenn.: From 2007 to 2012, Memphis had the highest growth in female-owned businesses—116 percent—among the nation’s 25 largest cities, according to New York City think tank The Center for an Urban Future. Most, however, don't have paid employees, and the city's economic leaders are working with accelerators to change that and move toward female-owned firms that create jobs. WalletHub also found Memphis nearly as friendly to new businesses as its neighbor Chattanooga, ranking fourth overall.

 

Milwaukee, Wis.: The second best business climate for women, according to WalletHub, is in this midwestern city. It helps that Wisconsin ranked as a top state (seventh overall) for working mothers in another WalletHub survey, with good marks for work-life balance and childcare. Women-owned firms in Milwaukee are also attracting more investment. In July, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.  was one of only 15 organizations nationwide to land a $1.1 million private grant to help diverse-owned small businesses.

 

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

With the first-ever nomination of a woman for president, we are hearing a lot these days about the glass ceiling.

 

The term “glass ceiling” stems from the 1970s. Back then, author and editor Gay Bryant was working on Working Woman magazine. As she told the “New York Daily News” recently, the magazine was targeting “women who were entering the executive suite, women with careers, not just a job.” Bryant worked with a lot of women who were first entering the workforce and who were finding it challenging on many fronts.

 

While Bryant did not talk about the glass ceiling at that time, she famously uttered the phrase in an interview in the mid-80s while running Family Circle magazine. Bryant had long been trying to create what she called “a roadmap to success” for these women because she found that too often her female colleagues found that their upward rise in the business world would stall for reasons of gender. It was during this time that in an interview Gay Bryant said this phenomenon was a “glass ceiling.”

 

The phrase stuck.

 

The good news is that, while not gone, the glass ceiling certainly seems to have a lot of cracks in it these days. Indeed, according to the recent Bank of America “Women Business Owner Spotlight” survey, while a majority of the women surveyed (77%) said that a glass ceiling does in fact exist, more than half (54%) said that the much-discussed ceiling does not affect them personally.

 

And while that is heartening, it must be noted, however, that 46% of the women surveyed said that they have indeed encountered the glass ceiling at some point in their careers.

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There were several other findings in the survey that are worth noting:

 

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

 

For starters, women are more optimistic than men right now when it comes to the future of their businesses. In the short-term, 52% of women surveyed expect that their businesses would grow over the next 12 months while only 48% of men felt that way. Results were even more pronounced over the long-term. 60% of women small business owners expected to grow their business over the next five years as compared to only 52% of men.

 

This all then begs the question: How do women entrepreneurs expect to grow their businesses? Of course, it is the same for any small business owner, no matter their age or sex or favorite color or whatever: they need access to clients and capital.

 

Again we see good news coming from the Bank of America research. Almost seven in ten of the women surveyed said that they thought they had the same access to capital as their male counterparts. Twenty-eight percent thought they had less access, and three percent thought it was about the same.

 

That same optimism was seen across the board when it comes to other traditional ways one might grow a business, for example:

 

  • 79% of women though they had the same access to clients as men
  • 69% thought they had the same access to business opportunities as men and
  • 75% thought they had the same access to outside resources as men

 

Given all of this, it is not surprising that when choosing words to describe their entrepreneurial journey, the adjectives leaned heavily positive:

 

  • 35% said they are “content.”
  • 49% said they are “empowered”, and
  • 54% said they are “successful.”

 

So yes, it looks like the “glass ceiling” is hopefully heading towards being a phrase of a bygone era.

 

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Every great business has one – that thing that they do that is unique, special and different.

 

When I was a kid there was a place down the street that advertised all over that it was home to “the world’s greatest hamburger.” I thought it was an amazing thing that I lived so close to the best hamburger in the world. Lucky us! Later I realized that of course wasn’t the case, but they sure did have the best slogan in town.

 

Great businesses do something unique. Normally it’s more than a jingle; it could be a product or service or attitude or whatever, but it is something that sets them apart. It is sort of like that old McDonald’s jingle about the Big Mac:

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Two all beef patties

Special sauce

Lettuce cheese, pickles, onions

On a sesame seed bun

 

Now, we really have no idea what the “special sauce” is made of, though one might guess that it’s ketchup and mayonnaise; that’s actually not the critical point. The critical point is that the Big Mac has a secret sauce.

 

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

 

In business terms, secret sauce has become shorthand for that thing you do, have, and/or offer that is special.

 

Do you ever watch the show Shark Tank? If you do, you will notice that one thing that the sharks are always looking for is that distinctive angle - that secret sauce. Often it is the secret sauce that will compel one of them to jump on board, and it is the lack of a secret sauce that scares others away.

 

Andy Bechtolsheim knew that he had just witnessed a super-secret sauce in 1996 after he had been given a demonstration of Google. He wrote out a $100,000 on the spot to “Google, Inc.” Fun side note: Graduate students Sergy Brin and Larry Page were unable to deposit the check for several weeks because they had not yet incorporated and there was no “Google, Inc.”

 

When I share the secret sauce secret with small business people, they are oftentimes intimidated. They worry that they have to be like Google or McDonald’s or something. That is not what I am saying at all. What I am saying is that if you want to get ahead, then it would serve you well to figure out what your secret sauce is and capitalize on it, that’s all.

 

What is it that you do – or could do – that is unique, different, and special?

 

Here in my town, there is no shortage of organic markets. But one of them has a tagline, “The friendliest store in town.” And heck if they aren’t. For us it’s a two-fer: We get great, fresh food there, and they are indeed quite nice about it (they’d better be with those prices!)

 

Given all of the competition in that arena, this market needed a niche. Instead of competing where they may not win (price, selection, or convenience), they changed the equation and compete in an area where they are strongest. Their “friendliness” is their secret sauce.

 

Similarly, there is a dentist here who calls herself, “the sedation dentist.” Of course all dentists now offer sedation dentistry, but for the chickens out there, her tagline denotes a secret sauce that they want.

 

So that is the lesson. Don’t play on someone else’s turf of location or lowest price or whatever. Play the game on your home field. Think about what it is that you do that is distinct and better and brand your business around that.

 

And if that means you need to tell people that you have the greatest hamburger in the world, then 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Heather R. Johnson.GettingPaid_Body.jpg

 

Late payments aren’t just frustrating for a small business, they can seriously disrupt cash flow. To ensure prompt payment, follow these invoicing and collections tips:

 

1. Get it in writing

Having a signed agreement from your client that specifies invoicing terms and pricing will prevent future complications, says Mari Ann Snow, owner of small business consulting firm Sophaya. Determine the client’s billing schedule in advance and find out what information it needs for processing. Will the client need a purchase order or will an invoice number suffice? Does it need to set up your business as an approved vendor?

 

2. Invoice promptly

No matter how packed your to-do list, submit invoices immediately after or as you supply products and services. The sooner you invoice, the sooner you’ll get paid. Before you submit the first invoice to a new client, learn its processing system. If you know that the business only issues payments twice a month, you can be sure to invoice well before those dates.

 

3. Consider early payment discounts

If your business can’t wait 30 days for payment, offer a one- to two-percent early payment discount. Because this option costs you money, only extend the discount when you really need the funds; for example, for a major equipment purchase or during a slow period. Be wary, however, of clients that take the discount and still wait to pay. “If you know the client is reputable and pays on time, a discount may benefit your business,” says Steven Friedman, senior vice

president, business and advisory brokerage, for Reichel Realty & Investments, Inc. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

 

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4. Adopt a late fee policy

Include your late fee policy in client contracts and on invoices. “Clients will understand that they need to pay the invoice on time or they’ll get hit with late fees,” says Friedman. Whether you charge two percent per month or 18 percent annually, enforce the policy consistently. “It’s easier to reverse a late fee than it is to collect fees later on,” Friedman says.

 

5. Accept online payments

In our increasingly paperless, cashless society, more small businesses choose to make and receive payments online. Most banks and some financial software services allow customers to receive Automated Clearing House (ACH) and credit card payments. The online option means faster payment for you and an easy process for the client. Many software solutions also let you send and track invoices, which helps you manage receivables more efficiently.

 

6. Follow up

Friedman tells businesses to check in with clients at least two weeks before an invoice due date. That way, you can correct any problems or resend the invoice if they didn’t receive it. Soon after the due date, follow up with a polite inquiry. “If the client knows you’re going to call, they will put you on the top of the list,” says Friedman.

 

An efficient receivables process is a key component to maintaining positive cash flow. With friendly communication and an organized invoicing policy, you’ll spend less time chasing down the money and more time making it.

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

SBSpotlight_DestinationAthlete_Body.jpgIn our latest installment of the Small Business Community’s spotlight feature, we meet Doug Dickison, founder and chairman of Destination Athlete, a company that offers products and services to youth and high school athletes. In a recent interview, Doug speaks about when he came up with the idea for his company, how his former career at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) helped lay the groundwork, and why he feels Destination Athlete is helping to reshape the youth sports market.

 

In 2006, Doug Dickison was living with his wife and family in Hunterdon County, in western New Jersey. He was well established in a 20-year career as a senior executive with Johnson & Johnson, charged with creating a new commercial business platform for the pharmaceutical and consumer products giant.

 

At night, however, he was deeply involved in coaching youth sports in his town. At the time, his son was playing football and his daughter was on her school’s field hockey team. As Dickison went about attending to all the things a coach is responsible for—ordering team uniforms and equipment, working with the players, and managing the logistics of game schedules—he became increasingly frustrated. “I really enjoyed coaching and connecting with the community, but I knew there had to a better way of doing things,” he says.

 

That’s when the idea for Destination Athlete came into focus. From Dickison’s vantage point as a coach there were three major problems with youth sports. For starters, he says the market was huge (more than 60 million boys and girls play sports), but wildly fragmented. “You had to deal with anywhere from three to seven different vendors just to get the uniforms, equipment, and trophies you needed,” he says. “It was tremendously time-consuming.” Customer service was nearly non-existent, and perhaps worst of all in Dickison’s eyes, there was more of a focus on the sport rather than the athlete playing it.

 

As he began to sketch out his ideas for improvement, Dickison realized he had the opportunity to radically change the youth sports market. “It was an industry ripe for disruptive innovation,” he says. He spent the next two years putting together a business plan, researching the various vendors in the space, and looking for models of exemplary customer service (retailer Nordstrom ranked high with him.) Rather than resign completely from J&J, Dickison requested a part-time schedule in 2007 in order to save enough money for the launch. “It was one of those things when you start having a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch,” he says.

 

On July 14, 2008, Destination Athlete began as the one-source solution for the youth sports market. To get the word out, Dickison began visiting with high school athletic directors, commissioners of recreation leagues, and anyone else in Hunterdon County tasked with running a youth sport or high school team. By ordering from Destination Athlete, he told them, they would have access to over 200 vendors of team apparel, uniforms, equipment, and more, from one site. The goods would be shipped directly to the person in charge of the team on time and in the right quantities. “The business went viral very fast,” Dickison says. “We did minimal advertising. It was really word of mouth and doing more business with each customer.”

 

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One of the lessons that Dickson says he took from his time at J&J was how to manage—and plan for—growth. In the case of Destination Athlete, he believed the company could work on a national level, but felt that building an army of sales reps was not the most effective or efficient way to grow. Instead, he chose franchising. “There were a lot of compelling studies that showed that a franchisee is 400% more effective than a company’s best employees for the simple fact that they have skin in the game,” he says. “Plus, I wanted people to be able to share in our success and there’s no better way to do that than to be an owner of something.”

 

Today, the company has 30 franchisees in eight states. Dickison designed the business so that it could be low cost (a Destination Athlete franchise starts at $20,000) and home-based. And like all franchises, it needed to be turnkey, with a robust vendor network, solid training, and responsive franchisee support. “We didn’t even advertise that we offered franchises until last year because we wanted to make sure all our systems were in place and ready to go,” he adds. His patience paid off. In January, Entrepreneur magazine named Destination Athlete to its list of the 500 best franchises under $50,000.

 

Since starting, the company has also added services that help teams with fundraising as well as Complete Athlete 360, a performance platform that focuses on nutrition and conditioning for individual athletes and teams, an area often overlooked in youth sports. With 10 full-time employees, Dickison says the company’s structure can support up to 50 franchises before it needs to hire additional talent.

 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Dickison’s experience as a small business owner is his belief in the business. When he launched Destination Athlete, the country was in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. “Plenty of people told me all the reasons why this business wasn’t going to succeed,” he says. He never let the naysayers get to him, and not just because he had a passion for the business. “Passion is good for about the first 90 days,” Dickison says. “After than you have to have a good business plan and a complete understanding of the economics of the market you’re going after. I spent two years planning this business before launching it. I certainly took the time to do my homework.”

 

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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

A few years ago, an associate of mine who is a real estate broker got clobbered by the housing crisis. But instead of folding up shop, he decided that if he was going to do fewer deals that they better be bigger deals. So he switched from selling single-family homes to commercial real estate. Not only did he survive, he thrived.

 

“Less work, more money,” is how he put it to me.

 

It’s a strategy any of us who have a small business can employ. The problem with selling to consumers or other small businesses is that they generally have small budgets. By targeting corporations – fishing for bigger fish – you have the chance to make more money because you are dealing with entities that have bigger budgets.

 

Not only, that, but by getting your foot in the door with a big business you can create a revenue stream that comes from co-branding with an impressive corporate partner. This can lead to even more corporate clients.

 

So, how do you catch the big fish? Here are the five steps to take:

 

1. Understand the corporate client: Before you make the decision to devote the time, effort, and money necessary to get a corporate client, you need to understand how big businesses operate.

 

It is key to understand that it is not called a “big business” for nothing. Everything about big businesses is big. Their needs are bigger, they have bigger budgets, more resources, more expertise, more people, more products, more services, more customers, and more vendors.

 

The good news is also the bad news: Because big businesses are big, they move slower. They are bSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngureaucratic. And perhaps most importantly, finding the right person within the organization who has the need and budget to buy what you sell is not always easy.

 

A solution to this is to think of the company as the smaller units that make it up. Viewing the company as manageable, bite-size divisions (which it is) will make it easier to understand and will allow you to best figure out where to start.

 

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

 

2. Choose a business (or businesses) to target: There are a lot of big businesses out there that could use your products or services. How do you know which ones with whom to try and do business? You want two things from your potential big business partner:

 

  • A company that needs what you have to sell
  • A place where you will have a high likelihood of success

 

This is where the Internet and social media come into play. Do your homework.

 

3. Identify the right person: Trying to figure out who to pitch in a big company can be a challenge. Here are three ways to figure that out:

 

The “About Us” pages on corporate websites offer a wealth of information. Start there.

 

Data.com Connect is a directory of decision makers.

 

LinkedIn has a great advanced people search tool that not only analyzes data but lets you know how many connections away you are.

 

4. Get ready to pitch: If you want to sell to corporations, you must be prepared to answer this simple question: How does your business, product, or service help the big business? Note that the question is not, what do you have to sell that a big business will buy? It is a critical distinction.

 

Once you are ready, there are many ways to approach the identified decision maker. You can e-mail him or her. You can cold call. You can leave a clever voicemail. You can use your network to get an introduction. Or you can reach out to them on social media (a surprisingly effective method these days).

 

  1. 5. Pitch away: As you well know, there are some “magic phrases” that business people like and it would behoove you to use some of them:

 

  • Less expensive
  • Quicker, faster, better
  • Higher quality
  • Improved efficiency
  • Increased customer loyalty
  • Increased market share
  • Less risk

 

Final tip: Your pitch needs to focus on helping them solve a problem or meeting an objective they want to achieve. That’s the key.

 

Good luck!

 

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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Who is Martha Matilda Harper?

 

Unless you are a real devotee of business trivia, you may not know that the International Franchise Association (IFA) named Ms. Harper the first franchisor ever, for her 1891 invention of Harper Method Shops, a hair salon franchise system that, at its peak, numbered more than 500 shops.

 

However, despite the IFA’s designation, the actual first recorded franchisor in U.S. history is none other than Benjamin Franklin. In 1731, Franklin entered into a partnership with Thomas Whitmarsh, so he could carry on Franklin’s printing business in Charlestown, South Carolina. Among other requirements, Whitmarsh was obligated to reprint some of Franklin’s writings, work exclusively for Franklin, and buy all of his printing materials from Franklin as well.

 

What Ms. Harper and Mr. Franklin have in common is that they both knew that the way to grow their business was by teaming up with the right strategic partner.

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So what exactly is a strategic partnership?

 

A strategic partnership is an agreement between two companies where both businesses team up to share resources, information, finances, and so forth for mutual benefit. Typically, one partner provides expertise, customers, services, or products needed by the other partner and the other offers something synergistic in return.

 

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

 

The result is that the two businesses can do more together than they ever could alone. Martha Matilda Harper could have never opened a chain of 500 beauty salons without teaming up with those early franchisees. Franklin was able to expand his reach by having a partner in what was then far off South Carolina.

 

With a strategic partnership, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

 

The value of a strategic partnership will vary for each company and the benefits one business gets from the other will likely differ. In the franchisor-franchisee example for instance, the franchisor provides the franchisee with a proven success system while the franchisee gives the franchisor exposure and income. Each brings something different to the table, but each is also better off by virtue of the partnership.

 

Strategic partnerships have additional benefits as well:

 

A shared customer base: Small businesses are always looking for ways to find new customers and a strategic partnership is a great way to do that.

 

Increased viability: The fact that your partner is willing to co-brand with you creates instant credibility in the mind of their customers. Not only will you gain immediate exposure, but that exposure will be via the always-great word of mouth.

 

Better data: It’s no secret that we’re in an era of big data. Another benefit of a strategic partnership is that it offers both companies the opportunity to construct a much more comprehensive customer profile.

 

Potential expansion: Another great part about strategic partnerships is that they give both businesses an increased opportunity to expand into previously unreachable areas. By utilizing the resources of their partner, each company is able to harness the power of two sets of established customer bases while also reaching an entirely new set of customers.

 

Shoring up weaknesses: Every business has its strengths and weaknesses. The solution to weaknesses are strategic partnerships. By identifying your weaknesses and finding strategic partners to complement them, you can fill your gaps.

 

So yes, finding the right strategic partner would be a good investment of your time or as the wise old Ben Franklin might put it,

 

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

 

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.

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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.

 

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