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2017

Is workplace gender equality on the horizon? Depends on who you ask. According to most of the 375 women entrepreneurs surveyed for the 2017 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, the answer is yes. However, I’m not so sure I agree…

The survey found that within 20 years:

  • 80 percent of those surveyed believe there will be “greater or equal representation of women” in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) industries, compared to men
  • 68 percent say women will match or exceed men in executive leadership or C-suite roles
  • 66 percent think there will be more women-owned small businesses compared to those owned by men
  • 61 percent of women believe their wages will be equal to or greater than those of men

 

I want to agree with these women. I’ve been advocating for women entrepreneurs since the mid-1980s when I first launched a magazine for them. But if the past is prologue, 20 years may not be enough time for women to achieve economic parity.

 

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

 

According to the latest stats from the Labor Department, in 2016 women made 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man. (And that’s for white women. CNN Money reports Hispanic women make 54 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns, while black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes.)

 

Twenty years ago, in 1997, women earned 73.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Progress? Not much. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (which has tracked the gender wage gap since 1987), says, “If change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past 50 years, it will take 42 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity.”

Women.pngThere’s better news when it comes to CEOs. Fortune magazine says women lead 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 companies (that’s 32 companies). According to the magazine, “This is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500.” And yet Fortune says that number is “still very, very low—and in no way representative of the wider population.”

 

For some context, the government enacted the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) in 1974. In other words, it became illegal “for creditors to discriminate in any aspect of a credit transaction on the basis of sex or marital status,” only 43 years ago. Essentially, before then, a woman could not get credit unless she had a male co-signer.

 

The nation experienced an entrepreneurial revolution in the 1990s—and women became a symbol of that surge. For most of that decade (and since) the startup rate for women-owned businesses was at least double, sometimes four times that of the general startup rate. Many experts predicted women would own 50 percent of U.S. small businesses by 2000. Today, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), women own about 9.4 million businesses or around one-third of all U.S. businesses, employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales.

 

By every measure, women run smaller businesses than men. Why is the growth of women-owned businesses so stilted? Joanna L. Krotz addressed this earlier this year on  HuffPost, and some of her examples are because women owners suffer from: low confidence; less business experience; gender bias in funding; service businesses that don’t scale; family responsibilities; fewer role models; reluctance to delegate; inadequate pricing; and resistance to taking on complementary partners.

 

So, does the problem lie with women? Candida Brush, a Babson professor of entrepreneurship, doesn’t think so. Several years ago, she told me, “It was all about what women need to do. Not anymore. The women are there, they’re qualified, and they perform well. I’m very tired of this argument that it’s the women who need to fix themselves.”

As noted above, women face hurdles when it comes to securing venture capital. According to long-time financial journalist Ali Velshi, “Only 17 percent of VC-funded companies have a female co-founder or CEO.  Women only run 3.9 percent entirely. In 2016, women-run companies got $4.5M in VC funding, down from $6.1M in 2015 and $5.1M in 2014.”

 

While I applaud the optimism of the women in the Spotlight report, I don’t necessarily share it. Frankly, paraphrasing that old cliché, women have come a long way and we have a long way yet to go.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Three Ideas For Women Business Leaders to Help Others Follow Their Path

 

Let’s not focus on that cliché though.

 

Here are some actions women can take to break through the glass ceiling:

  1. Create a culture that accepts, acknowledges and rewards women. If you’re in a position to hire, consider worthy women candidates—and pay them fairly.

  2. Women tend to be more risk-averse than men. If you’re worried about “what will happen if…” and that concern stops you in your tracks, just ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if things don’t go as planned?”. You’ll see you can manage what you fear.

  3. Don’t take failure personally. No one wins all the time. When something goes wrong, examine your mistakes, “mourn” for 48 hours, and then move on.

  4. Claim your fame. Often, women don’t like to toot their own horns. Embrace your success—in public.

  5. Find a mentor; be a mentor. If you need help, ask for it. Talk to people here in the Bank of America community. Go to SCORE.org and get free mentorship. There’s no better feeling than helping someone accomplish their goals.

  6. And finally, remember the words of former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” I interpret that as practice the Golden Rule, “Do unto others…”

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years.Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of

America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

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

According to the second annual Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, female entrepreneurs envision significant strides for women in the workforce over the next 20 years, with a majority believing that women will match or exceed men in a number of areas.

 

Business-Woman.gifTo learn more about women business owners’ specific insights, Bank of America surveyed 1,000 small business owners across the country, focusing on aspirations and concerns regarding the economy, empowerment and opportunity.

 

“The rules of business are changing, and women entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the transformation. They have articulated an inspiring vision for the small business community over the next 20 years — one of equal pay, leadership opportunities and greater support for those with families,” said Sharon Miller, head of Small Business. “Within the context of a growing economy, this bodes incredibly well for the future of women in business.”

 

Shattering the glass ceiling

According to the survey, women entrepreneurs expect big cracks in the glass ceiling — the proverbial barrier to advancement — over the next 20 years.

  • 80% of female entrepreneurs foresee greater or equal representation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields compared to men in STEM.
  • 68% believe women will match or exceed men in executive leadership role representation.
  • 66% believe there will be more women-owned small businesses compared to those owned by men.
  • 61% believe their wages will be equal to or greater than those of men.

083017_womens_1.gif

 

Striking the right work-life balance

The Spotlight also explored the struggles of achieving a work-life balance, finding that while many women entrepreneurs experience long hours, a large majority actually feel they have a good balance between their work and home lives.

 

They’re also enjoying their work, primarily describing their average week as interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable. However, fewer believe they have achieved this balance compared to their male counterparts.

 

083017_womens2.gif

 

Growing optimism about the economy

Download the full report

Women small business owners have shown significant increases in optimism toward the economy improving in the year ahead — including confidence in their local economy (45% in 2017 vs. 37% in 2016), the national economy (44% in 2017 vs. 25% in 2016) and the global economy (32% in 2017 vs. 16% in 2016).

 

Despite the substantial boost in economic confidence, the number of women small business owners who plan to grow their business over the next five years has declined (54% in 2017 vs. 60% in 2016), as has the number of women anticipating a revenue increase over the next 12 months (44% in 2017 vs. 54% in 2016).

 

“The data we collect through this survey helps Bank of America better serve this important client segment not only with their small business relationships, but also with all their financial needs,” Sharon said.

 

For internal use only:  The information and material contained on this Web page is proprietary to Bank of America and is not to be distributed outside of Bank of America.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks. She went for a walk in the forest.  Pretty soon, she came upon a house. She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

 

At the table in the kitchen, there were three bowls of porridge. Goldilocks was hungry, so she tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

Goldilocks.png

“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.

 

So she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

 

“This porridge is too cold,” she said.

 

So then she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

 

“Ahhh, this porridge is just right,” she said happily and ate it all up.

 

When you are getting ready to retire and you want to sell your business, the process of valuing it can be a lot like Goldilocks’ porridge. Value it too low, and you won’t get what you deserve. Price it too high and you may get burned.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

The trick is to value it just right, so that potential buyers will eat it all up.

 

The question of how to value your business can certainly be a tricky one; there are many numbers, facts, figures and variables at play. In addition, it’s often difficult to take an objective, factual look at your labor of love. The good news is that there are a few methods and rules that can make this process easier.

 

Let’s review:

 

Earnings multiplication: This method is relatively straightforward and commonly used. In a nutshell, the idea is to multiply your business’s annual earnings by a multiplier. Let’s say your business has consistently made $100,000 each year, and there are no new factors that indicate any big changes in the foreseeable future. A business like this could sell up to 3-5 times its annual earnings, so you could value it anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. Many businesses sell with multipliers in this range.

 

The problem here is that it can be tough to figure out the right multiplier; not only does it seem very subjective, but there are also plenty of variables (like hard assets, debts, accounts receivable, etc.) that are easy to overlook.

 

Be careful and scrupulous with this method.

 

Assets valuation: Instead of reducing your business’s value merely to its annual earnings, a different analysis sometimes used to determine value is simply adding up all your business’s tangible assets. These assets can be tools or equipment with potential resale value, contracts, receivables, etc. Once you add this number up and subtract debts you owe, you will come up with the net value of all your hard assets.

 

Although this method is more detailed, it can end up lowering the value of your business since it doesn’t take future income into account.

 

RELATED CONTENT: THE 4 MOST IMPORTANT DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

 

Comparables: This one is similar to the process you might go through to value your home. Here, you look at the value of other, comparable companies that have either a) been recently sold, or b) have, in one way or another, publicized their value.

 

The big flaw with this method might be obvious: There is almost always more than meets the eye. By assuming your company is comparable to another, you could be overlooking a whole gamut of variables, and thereby making a fatal apples-to-oranges comparison.

 

Professional valuation: To find out what your company is truly worth, the best thing you can do is hire a business broker and get a professional opinion. A complete valuation is a thorough evaluation and appraisal of your business – its assets, earnings, debts, future potential, etc. Anything you might accidentally overlook with your own quick valuation, a professional, complete valuation will make sure to account for.

 

Yes, this process is costly, but it’s also the most foolproof way to be sure you aren’t making a costly mistake, and that the bears won’t chase you out of your business. Taking the time to value your business for exactly what it’s worth will set you up for a sale you will feel confident in and won’t regret. Make sure to diligently research and weigh options so you know what is the best for your situation.

 

About Steve Strauss

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

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Your customers already can praise or criticize your business across social media or online rating and review sites. So do you really need one more way to measure customer opinion? Yes.

 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple but meaningful measure that can help any business quickly and efficiently calculate how well it's doing in its customers’ eyes.

 

What is the Net Promoter Score?

The concept of NPS originated in a Harvard Business Review article and was further refined by Bain & Company. All you have to do is ask customers: How likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague? Customers respond on a 10-point scale, where 10 means “definitely likely” and zero means “not at all likely.”

 

The beauty of the NPS lies in its simplicity—who doesn’t have time to answer a one-question survey? Here’s how you analyze the results.

 

  • Those who respond with a 9 or 10 are “Promoters.” They’re loyal customers and advocates for your business.

  • Those who respond with a 7 or 8 are “Passives.” While they are currently satisfied, they could also be persuaded to switch to your competition.

  • Those who respond with a 6 or less are “Detractors.” At best, they consider your business “meh,” which means they aren’t likely to recommend it, and could openly criticize it.

 

In addition to scoring individual respondents, you’ll also need to figure out your NPS. To do this, calculate how many people responded, the total number of Promoters, and the total number of Detractors. Then subtract the percentage of Detractors from the Percentage of Promoters to arrive at your score. 

 

If you have the same percentage of Detractors as you do Promoters, your score will be zero. Any score over zero is considered good; a score of 50 or higher is considered excellent. Scores of over 70 are considered world-class; at this level, you find companies like Apple and Amazon.

 

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

 

How to Do an NPS Survey

You can create your own NPS survey and tabulate the results manually, or you can save a lot of time by using apps designed to conduct NPS surveys. They help you automate when surveys are sent, collect and sort responses, and generate reports that let you track trends over time and spot changes that might be important indicators of customer sentiment. (For example, did your NPS score take a dive right after you raised the price of your service?) Delighted, AskNicely and YesInsights are three NPS solutions to consider.

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NPS Survey Questions

To get the most out of an NPS survey, you must have insightful questions. It is better to start off with an easier, less intrusive question. For example, “How did you hear about us?” It is a great icebreaker because not only is it easy for the respondent to answer, but it also provides you with information on how customers hear about your business.

You’ll collect better information to help you improve if your NPS survey includes an open-ended follow-up question: What’s your most important reason for giving us that score? This gives customers room to either rave or rant about you. Both responses are useful. However, try not to include too many open-ended questions – two to three max.

 

Send an additional thank you email to the respondent after successful completion of the survey. For example, “Thank you for your time. Your opinion is very important to us and it will help us better serve you in the future.” 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Understanding Your Ideal Customer

 

How to Use Your NPS Score

Don’t expect to beat Amazon, but do compare your score to other companies in your industry to see where you stand. Check out this NPS benchmark resource or the industry NPS benchmarks from Satmetrix.

 

Of course, the benchmark that really matters is whether your own score is improving over time.

 

Once you’ve gathered feedback:

  • Reach out to Detractors and
  • Reach out to Promoters to say thank you and ask if they’d be willing to write an online review for your business (send them the link), provide referrals or give you a testimonial profiled in a case study.
  • Look for

 

The NPS score allows you to check-in with your customers, evaluate their feedback, and grow your business.

 

About Rieva LesonskyRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

There are plenty of viable cost-cutting measures and small businesses should take advantage of every one of them.

Why spend thousands on a top-quality cherry wood conference room table when a pine table – not to mention a second-hand model – will look good at a fraction of the price? Unfortunately, cost-cutting does not always make sense and can cost your business more than it saves over time.

 

Here are 6 areas where spending more money can provide economic benefits to your business.

 

1. Employees and contractors

If your core team is comprised solely of entry-level workers, you will save money… until their lack of skills and experience lose customers for your business. Good decision-makers and customer-facing personnel will cost more, but they help your company prosper and grow.

Build your team out of the best employees you can afford and supplement their efforts with skilled contractors. These are the people who can later train less-expensive entry-level employees, who may become top-tier team members over time.

Also, compensating employees well gives them less of an incentive to leave, which saves you money in terms of head hunting, retraining and more.

 

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2. Accounting services

Well-designed, intuitive business accounting software is universally used to save on bookkeeping costs. If you choose your software carefully and learn how to use it, this is a valid cost-saving measure.

But don't count on software to make financial decisions for your company. You need to send the numbers to the best accountant that you can find. Look for someone who reads and interprets numbers like you read the news. A good accountant can instantly spot positive and negative trends in your business — and has the intimacy with federal and local tax codes to help ensure that you take every available tax break, while avoiding potential penalties. They can also help you set up pension and benefit plans and do other work that’s very valuable for you and your business.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

3. Legal support

Your cousin Lenny may be a wonderful personal injury lawyer who took business courses in law school – but he is not a corporate legal expert.

Even an off-the-shelf contract must be carefully reviewed to ensure that it preserves your unique interests. Strong legal counsel in your corner can make a tremendous difference when negotiating deals or disputes, while helping you avoid the stress of a courtroom battle. Perhaps, you can't afford to put a top business lawyer on retainer, but you still need to find someone who has the in-depth understanding of the state and federal laws your business needs. With dedicated legal support, you can save money by getting fair treatment from other parties — and stay out of trouble.

 

4. Software and technology

Low-priced web hosting can save you a great deal of money if you're ready to take a do-it-yourself approach to build your site. But do you know what designs and techniques make your website effective? If you don't understand how to design a site that attracts customers bring in a web developer with a good track record.

This is just one example of when you might want to spend more on technology. Don't count on a student from your local technical school to program a custom system to keep control over inventory. And if you can afford to hire an in-house technical support person, you might avoid wasted downtime while waiting for a technician to fix something on an as-needed basis.

Free software programs can get you started but aren’t robust enough to provide the level of tools that you need to grow your business and analyze data properly.

 

5. Education and training

Do you and your employees have the knowledge needed to keep up with your competitors? It is possible to obtain decent free online training in some cases, but think of the negative results when this type of ready-made training goes awry. Without proper guidance, students can misunderstand pertinent facts and carry misconceptions deep into your business operations.

When your team members need more knowledge than they currently have, do the research needed to get quality training. You might be able to save money later if your properly-trained employees can share their knowledge with future new hires.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: LISTENING TO SOCIAL MEDIA CAN GROW YOUR BUSINESS

 

6. Disaster planning tools

Nobody gets excited about paying high prices for insurance but just one natural disaster or major theft can quickly change a business' attitude toward this important recovery tool. Bring in a knowledgeable insurance agent who can explain the merits of obtaining the right amount of coverage for your business and whether business interruption and other types of insurance make sense for your company.

Since insurance is only one part of disaster planning, you should also consider purchasing off-site or cloud-based data backups, storing extra inventory at another location and more. Investing in a disaster-planning consultant might be money well-spent to quickly recover after a catastrophe.

 

I will also add cybersecurity planning into this mix, as small businesses are becoming targets more often. Not investing upfront can cost you a lot on the back end.

 

Cutting corners can be an expensive proposition

Finding the best deals can be wise but make sure that you consider long-term costs and the time that you might have to invest to fix problems. Before you spend good money on reduced-quality services or merchandise, gaze into your crystal ball to envision the future results of your decisions. Spending less money upfront can easily lead to bigger losses down the road.

 

About Carol Roth

Carol Roth Headshot for post.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Carol Roth by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Every small business owner strives to attract more customers. But if you’re just trying to get more customers, you’re selling yourself short. Instead, you should aim to get more of your ideal customers.

 

Ideal customers can have a lot of characteristics in common. They may be your most loyal customers, the ones who visit your business the most often, the ones who spend the most money, the ones who serve as brand advocates for your business or the ones who are the easiest to deal with. In business terms, however, your best customers are those with the greatest customer lifetime value, or CLV. (This article and interactive tool will help you calculate CLV.)

 

Once you’ve identified the customers with the greatest CLV, dig into the data you’ve collected about them f46356005_s.jpgrom purchasing records, loyalty software, customer relationship management (CRM) software or other records. Identify key characteristics and look for similarities.

 

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

 

For consumers, elements to consider include your best customers’ age, race or ethnicity, gender, marital status, household income, whether they have children, education level, occupation, where they live and whether they are homeowners. Beyond these basics, you can also look at behavior such as which websites, publications or social media they use, their hobbies and their interests.

 

For businesses, elements to consider include how long the company has been in business, annual revenues, industry, number of locations, geographic location, and how many employees the company has.

 

Whether your customers are businesses or people, in order to identify your ideal customer, you also need to ask these questions:

  • How did your best customers first learn about your business?
  • What prompted them to buy from you?
  • Why do they remain loyal to your company?
  • When buying products or services like yours, how do they research the decision?
  • What information sources do they use in the research?
  • What are their biggest pain points/needs regarding products and services like yours?
  • Why do they prefer your business to your competitors?

 

To go beyond the numbers in your records and answer these questions, you’ll need to do some additional legwork.

  • Go online: Use social listening to see what your best customers say about your business on social media. Are they sharing photos of your latest restaurant dish because it’s rainbow-colored and ideal for Instagram?  Are they on LinkedIn writing stellar recommendations for their account service rep? In addition to seeing what specific customers are saying, be sure to keep tabs on your businesses online ratings and reviews. What do your five-star reviewers say about your business? You’ll undoubtedly find many commonalities.

  • Do a survey: Ask your best customers questions using an online survey, mailing a survey form or calling them. If you have a B2C business, you’ll get more responses by offering customers a reward, such as a discount or gift, in return for completing the survey. If you have a B2B business, make the survey part of an annual or biannual “checkup" making sure the customer is satisfied.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: The New Consumers: What Do They Want?

 

Using all the information you’ve gathered, you should be able to come up with a pretty clear picture of your ideal customer/s. (You might have more than one ideal customer.) For example, a B2C clothing retailer might discover that its ideal customers are single women in their 20s who live in suburban areas, make between $36K and $55K a year, are avid Instagram users and get their fashion ideas from bloggers and social media. A B2B restaurant supply company might find that its ideal customers are upscale, independent restaurants in urban areas that purchase sustainably manufactured or recycled flatware, linens and dishes.

 

By understanding your ideal customers, you can focus your advertising, sales and marketing efforts on others like them. That boosts your ROI and your profits.

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

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

 

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

With apologies to musician Paul Simon, there are a lot of ways to leave your business:

 

Just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free!

 

Inevitably, there comes a time for almost every business owner to call it quits. Whether it’s age, health, retirement, finances, or just wanting to do something new, many entrepreneurs eventually say goodbye to their beloved business.

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

Typically, these are the main routes people choose to get out of their business:

  1. Pass on the business to a family member
  2. Sell the business
  3. Transform the business into something new entirely
  4. Close the business and sell assets

 

While each situation will require different considerations, and only you know what those considerations might be, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each option:

 

1. Pass on the business to a family member: This is the desire of many entrepreneurs, and often the reason someone starts a business in the first place: to create something of value to give to, or share with, the kids. 

 

The benefits of ending an entrepreneurial career this way are pretty clear:

 

  • You share a valuable asset with your children
  • Your business will be in the hands of somebody you trust
  • You won’t have to say goodbye entirely to your creation

 

Are there downsides to this plan? You bet. The first and main one is that your children may not want to, or may not be ready to, own or run your business. Your dream may not be their dream. So, long before you decide that you are going to give or sell your business to your kids, you better be darned sure they want it.

 

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

 

2. Sell the business: This is a great option because it puts money in your pocket. There are essentially two ways to sell your business:

 

  • An outright sale: You hire a business broker (typically), find interested buyers, and sell them the business;
  • A gradual sale: Here, you might find a buyer who does not have the financial wherewithal to buy the business outright and, in that case, they make ongoing payments to you.

 

3. Transform the business: Maybe you're not ready to retire but are more than ready for a different adventure. The good news is that as an entrepreneur you have the potential to add new features to, and take away old ones from, your existing business. Indeed, that is one of the beauties of self-employment.

 

This will feel a lot like the early stages of a startup (which is likely what you want.) You will need to test the waters (again) to find out what works and what doesn’t, and you will go through the long route of experimentation/process of elimination. If this is your plan, this all probably sounds great to you.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Small Business Owners need a Retirement Plan – Now

 

The risk here is that you will certainly lose some customers and clients in the process. So you need to be prepared for this loss and have a plan for how to re-brand, re-market, and ultimately re66663758_m.jpgcover.

 

4. Close the business and sell assets: For some, liquidation makes the most sense. By selling your assets, you can either pay off debts quickly or have a solid chunk of cash to put in the bank. Liquidation is also as quick as it is a straightforward, no-strings-attached activity.  For more information, check out the SBA page on closing your business here, and liquidation here.

 

Whatever route you choose, leaving your business is a process.

 

Just slip out the back, Jack, and set yourself free!

 

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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