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2017

Women entrepreneurs are a power to be reckoned with. According to the 2016 State of Women Owned Businesses report, in 2016 the 11.3 million U.S. businesses owned by women employed nearly 9 million people and generated over $1.6 trillion in revenues.

 

More good news: revenues of women-owned firms are growing faster than revenues of businesses overall—increasing by 35% since 2007. But there’s still a “glass ceiling” when it comes to revenues: NAWBO reports that just one in five businesses with annual revenues of $1 million or more is woman-owned.

 

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

 

Of course, some women-owned businesses have lower sales simply because they aren’t trying to become the next Starbucks. Many women (and men) entrepreneurs just like the flexibility of being their own bosses and aren’t driven by visions of world domination. But if you're one of those women entrepreneurs who does dream of being the next Mark Zuckerberg—or Martha Stewart—here are three things to help get you there.

 

1. Delegate. Women-owned businesses are less likely than businesses owned by men to have employees, according to the State of Women Owned Businesses report. But a one-person business can only grow to the limits of your abilities and available time. What’s more, solopreneurs get so bogged down in daily details and administration they have less time to devote to important daily tasks and long-term strategizing.

 

You don’t have to hire employees to delegate. Using independent contractors or freelancers can deliver many of the same benefits without the costs or headaches. But don’t assume you can't afford to hire, either. Assess your current workload, the potential for growth and how quickly an employee’s salary would recoup itself in new business. You may be surprised at how fast the investment in staff pays off.45163950_s.jpg

 

2. Don’t fear debt. You’ve got to spend money to make money. If you don’t have the money to spend, you may need to borrow it. Many entrepreneurs try to avoid debt like the plague. However, just like in our personal financial lives, when it comes to running a business, there’s good debt and bad debt. Taking out a mortgage to become a homeowner is good debt; charging your credit card up to the limit eating at fancy restaurants is bad debt.

 

When used wisely, business debt can be a valuable tool that helps you grow your business by purchasing inventory, equipment or assets you otherwise couldn’t afford. Before taking on debt, be sure you know what you’ll use the money for and the expected return on that investment. Also shop around for the best loan terms you can find. 

 

     RELATED ARTICLES: Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs

 

3. Partner with other businesses. Teaming up with other businesses in a strategic partnership lets you add new capabilities to your offerings. Look for a complementary business that provides products or services your customers want. For example, my content development business partners with a couple of website design firms. Since businesses in the market for website design often need content, and vice versa, partnering lets both our businesses access new customers and offer existing customers new services.

 

You can form a long-term strategic partnership or a short-term partnership focused on one project or serving one client. Make sure you trust your partner and the quality of their work. For each engagement, put a contract in place to clearly define the terms of the relationship, including potentially contentious issues like responsibilities, deliverables and compensation.

 

Make It a Million

Whether you want to grow a million-dollar business or simply boost your current sales, the three tactics above will help you achieve your financial goals.

 

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

Veteran_Resources_body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Military veterans who are either starting their own small business or already running one are in a unique category. Their training, service, and discipline are highly regarded by prospects and clients. The government also regularly awards a significant number of contracts specifically to businesses owned by veterans.

 

The following list of selected resources can provide information, assistance, and services to military veteran small business owners. Some of these overlap in their coverage of topics, so check them out thoroughly to find those that can help you best.

 

Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization: A comprehensive resource run by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs that promotes small business participation in VA procurements.

 

VetBiz: Run by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, it provides information about the verification process to qualify for VA contracts.

 

Veteran_Resources_PQ.jpgService Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses: The Small Business Administration resource that provides contracting support for veterans and service-disabled veterans, with information on how to qualify for veteran contracts.

 

Office of Veterans Business Development: Operated by the Small Business Administration, it provides help on availability, applicability, and usability of administration small business programs for veterans, reservists, and their families.

 

National Veteran-Owned Business Association (NaVOBA): Advocacy group that fights for more opportunities for military veteran business owners. Offers a registry for consumers looking for veteran-owned businesses, a magazine covering the veteran-owned business movement, webinars, and an index of "Buy Veteran" companies.

 

V-WISE: A program operated by the Institute For Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University that provides women veterans with tools and resources to start and grow their own businesses.

 

Hivers and Strivers: An angel investment group that supports start-up companies founded and run by graduates of the U.S. military academies.

 

These and many other resources are there to help military veterans succeed in the marketplace. Take advantage.

Is it too early to say Ho, Ho, Ho? I HOpe not!

 

If you own a retail business it is time to get ready for the holiday season. Indeed, there are several parts of your business that likely need attention now if you are going to be successful the rest of the year.47052474_s.jpg

 

Get your store ready: With the influx of people who will be coming into your space, you will want to spruce the place up – fresh paint, deep cleaning, making it shiny – you know the drill.

 

Beyond that, and probably more importantly, you want to think about how you can make your store a holiday destination. These days, the competition from online shopping is real and drop-in comparison shopping is a threat. As such, the savvy entrepreneur will make sure that the physical experience of coming into his or her shop is something that can’t be matched by pointing and clicking.

 

There are plenty of things you can do in this regard:

 

  • Set up a free gift-wrapping station for customers
  • Serve hot cocoa and cookies
  • Have Santa come to your store each week

 

Get your displays ready: The time is now to pull out the holiday decorations and displays to see what kind of shape they are in and what might need replacing.

 

    RELATED ARTICLE: 8 Cash Flow Tips to Season-Proof your Seasonal Business

 

Get your supplies in order: Will you need extra packaging, gift wrap, boxes, supplies?

 

Get your online presence ready: There are two parts to this.

 

First, update your social media presence. Freshen up your Facebook page and add new content, videos, etc. And what about launching on a new platform like Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram?

 

Also, be sure to interact and engage with your social media tribe. For example, you can offer small gift cards or coupons to customers who post photos or otherwise share their positive shopping experience at your store.

 

Second, make sure your website is up to date. Your About page should be up to date, contact info and hours should be current, and content across the website should be fresh.

 

               CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Get your staff ready: When thinking about holiday staff, there are two things to consider:

 

The first is your regular employees. It is a good practice to check in with them, see what their schedule constraints are, see when they may and not be available, and schedule around that to the extent possible.

 

Additionally, now is a good time to start looking for holiday help. Finding the right people, training them, scheduling them – it all takes time. Find people who are enthusiastic, communicative, friendly, and flexible.

 

Get your marketing ready: Now is the right time to noodle on some creative holiday marketing ideas, and even take a few out for a test drive. Maybe you are considering a special promotion, or new product, or new price point. Test now and see what works.

 

When it comes to marketing, it is also a good idea during the holidays to do the expected – have a sale, reward special customers, create events, and so on.

 

And finally, make sure that you build in some time off for yourself. After all, you’re the boss.

 

Don’t be a Grinch.

 

About Steve StrausSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

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.

 

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

By Jill Calabrese Bain

 

Bank of America has a long history with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) – both with the national chapter and more than 50 local chapters from coast to coast – and has been the presenting sponsor of its annual conference for the past five years.

 

Jill-Calabrese-Bain-NAWBO.pngFrom Oct. 15-17, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join fellow Bank of America teammates at NAWBO’s annual conference. More than 800 women gathered in Minneapolis to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of an organization that is the voice for more than 10.1 million female business owners nationwide. During an empowering and inspiring few days, we heard from notable speakers such as Erin Brockovich and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, as well as a diverse and knowledgeable group of business owners.

 

This year’s conference theme of ‘together we dare’ really stuck with me. We know that it takes tremendous heart to be a woman business owner. You must dare to follow your dreams. You must dare to be bold and take risks. And, my favorite, you must dare to fail. Above all, you must dare to succeed.

 

We know that women are succeeding! Women have made significant strides in the upward climb toward equal opportunity in the workforce and in business. We’re slowly but surely chipping away at the gender pay gap. And, according to our latest Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight study, women business owners are feeling more optimistic that we’re on track to level the playing field in the next 20 years when it comes to these four things: pay equity, executive leadership, representation in the STEM fields and, yes, small business ownership.

 

During the conference, I met with women from the United States and around the globe – daring women linked by their willingness to blaze their own trails and strive for excellence. One of my favorite breakout sessions focused on “daring leadership,” and we heard from women entrepreneurs who have annual revenues exceeding the $1 million mark. The four panelists hailed from a wide range of organizations – a staffing company, niche cookie company, law firm and international branding/multi-media company. Despite their varied backgrounds, their advice was the same – engage experts, stay true to your core strengths (even if it means watching business walk out the door), always trust your intuition, and don’t be afraid to take risks.

 

It was amazing to see such extraordinary women daring to succeed each day by being leaders in their businesses, communities, and role models for future generations of female entrepreneurs.

 

I’m beyond proud of Bank of America and my teammates who support women entrepreneurs day in and day out. And that was really at the heart of NAWBO’s annual conference. We are all here to support the missions of all women who have dared to dream… dared to be bold… and dared to succeed – despite the odds.

I don’t believe in the phrase “work-life-balance.” I think it sets us up for failure, because it’s impossible to achieve—at least for an entrepreneur. Balance implies 50/50 and no business owner can succeed only devoting 50 percent of their time to building their companies.

 

The reality of growing a business demands more than that, especially at startup, when a new business is nearly as needy as a new baby. (If you've ever been, or met, a new mom, you know their life isn’t exactly an example of “balance”).

 

As your business grows and you add employees, things get easier, akin to the relief moms feel when their kids grow beyond the toddler stage and they can finally take a shower in peace. But no matter what stage our businesses are in, women business owners—especially those with significant others, children or aging parents  — rarely feel balanced. “When I'm at work, I feel guilty I’m not at home with my kids,” one woman entrepreneur told me. “When I’m home with my kids, I feel guilty I’m not answering client emails or working on proposals.”

 

34215801_s.jpg   CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

Since the burdens of running the household usually fall on women (still!) even if they work outside the home, work-life balance has long been viewed as a “women's issue.” In recent years, however, the desire for work-life balance has become widespread. As technology intrudes into our lives 24/7, even men and millennials are yearning for less work, more life.

 

Is there an answer? While I believe the likelihood of any woman business owner finding true work-life balance is about as likely as finding the Holy Grail, I do think we can all find a more satisfactory way of managing our lives.

 

Here’s what it takes.

1. Accept you’ll never find balance. Instead, you’ll be seesawing up and down between priorities (see #3). Learn to enjoy the view, wherever you are, and savor the ride.

 

2. Give up the guilt. Easier said than done, I know. As women, we are raised to put others first and be people pleasers. If you want to succeed as a business owner without losing your grip, you’ve got to let some of that go.

 

3. Learn to prioritize. Your priorities will change every day—sometimes several times a day. It’s all about learning to triage what matters most to you—both at the moment and in the long term? If your biggest client is experiencing an emergency only you can handle, you might have to miss your daughter’s softball game. If your client just wants to have a routine conference call, tell him you have a previous appointment, schedule the call for tomorrow and go cheer your daughter on. Or start delegating some responsibilities.

 

4. Get help. Remember the old cliché, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” What could you accomplish if you had a “wife”? Stop trying to be Superwoman and think of ways you can buy time to focus on your priorities. For instance, maybe you need to hire a housecleaner, order dinner in every night or put your teens in charge of more household chores.

 

     RELATED VIDEO: Women Entrepreneurship in a World of Change, Moderated by Susan Solovic

 

The bottom line: listen to your gut. Yeah, you know that every day you should make time to get plenty of sleep, exercise, meditate, socialize, etc., etc. Do all of those things ever happen in the same day? Not if you’re like most women business owners.

 

Instead of beating yourself up about it, check in with yourself at the end of every day and see how you feel. Maybe you feel on top of the world even though you just worked 16 hours straight. If you’re happy, great; if not, think about how you can make tomorrow a better day.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

In a recent series of posts, I have been looking at great entrepreneurs who started small (part 1 and part 2), people like Richard Branson, Martha Stewart and Howard Schultz. What is amazing about entrepreneurs like these is not just how big their enterprises are (companies like Starbucks and Virgin). Rather, it’s  how small they started, how much they overcame and how far these entrepreneurs travelled.

 

          RELATED ARTICLE: Great Entrepreneurs Start Small – Consider Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Martha Stewart

 

55625037_s.jpgTake Oprah Winfrey for example. If you are looking for the quintessential rags-to-riches story, look no further. Yes, Oprah comes from incredibly humble roots, and that makes her rise and business skills more impressive. Oprah was raised by a single mom on welfare, was the victim of childhood sexual abuse and grew up in so much poverty that the kids in school made fun of her for wearing dresses made of potato sacks.

 

But, while we all know that Oprah is a gifted broadcaster, that is not what made her a billionaire. Lots of people have hosted talk shows, but what sets Oprah apart is her entrepreneurial chops, first evidenced when she negotiated the ownership and syndication rights to her show. That move allowed her to create her own production company and made her a millionaire by the age of 32 when her show went national.

 

Today, Oprah Winfrey is worth $3 billion.

 

steven-jobs-9354805-2-402.jpg

Another billionaire, Steve Jobs, was raised in less than ideal financial circumstances as well. Jobs grew up in a lower middle-class family, the adoptive son of a homemaker mother, and a father who was a self-described “repo man.”

 

Jobs was only at Reed College for a year before he had to drop out due to floundering familial finances. He continued to audit classes at Reed, ate for free at the local Hare Krishna temple, and returned soda bottles for change to get by. In 1974, Jobs moved to India and lived in an ashram for seven months before moving back to the Bay Area and living in his parents’ toolshed.

 

What grounded and motivated him throughout these tough, early years was a fascination with the nascent computer revolution. It was in 1975 that he and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer in the Jobs family garage. Apple, as we all know, was a hit from the start, but did you know that Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded less than a decade later? But he was nothing if not resilient. When later discussing his firing from the company he loved, he said:

 

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

 

When he died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, Steve Jobs was worth $8.3 billion.

 

               CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Walt_Disney_1946.JPGAnd if ever there was an entrepreneur who started small and overcame adversity, it is none other than Walt Disney, survivor of bankruptcy, lawsuits and more. In 1922, Disney started his first animation company, “Laugh-O-Gram,” where he and his partner made short advertising films and Walt attempted to create his first animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Unfortunately, a distributor soon cheated Disney and his partner in a big deal, causing Disney to declare bankruptcy and lose the rights to Oswald in the process.

 

Disney started all over, in a new city, and created another new company. Then he decided to create a character to replace Oswald.

 

A little fellow he named Mickey Mouse.

 

Entrepreneurs of great enterprises and companies started from humble and often extremely adverse backgrounds. Regardless of their beginnings, they all achieved incredible success. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down by losses as small business owners, but reminding yourself that every business and entrepreneur had their ebbs and flows can help keep your head up.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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.

 

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

I think of myself as an entrepreneur, not a “woman entrepreneur.” That said, there are things women tend to do as they approach business ownership that often hold them back from being even more successful.

 

Here are some of my top tips to leave the qualifiers behind so women can become more successful entrepreneurs.

 

1. Remember, Entrepreneurship is a Meritocracy. When you are the boss, you are the boss, and your potential is unlimited. You have every ability to pursue an opportunity in the same manner as anyone else, so don’t psych yourself out and create self-doubt that holds you back. Only you stand in the way of your own success.

 

2.  Think Big. Women tend to take on less risk than men. This, again, is not because of some rigged system as much as women holding themselves back from going really big. Whether it’s concern over disappointing someone or a fear of failure, you need to be able to lean into risk and uncertainty to be successful.

 

It’s also often just as difficult to start and run a small business as it is a big one, so why not really reach for a crazy goal? It’s ok to take calculated, educated risk. If you don’t fail at least part of the time, you aren’t pushing yourself enough.

    

    CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT CAROL ROTH

 

55497765_s.jpg3.  Delegate, but Don’t Abdicate, Responsibility. Generally speaking, women are often detail oriented. And the strengths of being good at the details also means you can get bogged down in running your business, instead of growing your business.

 

You need to create systems to teach other people to do tasks that aren’t the best use of your time or the best service to the business. While others may not be as good as you are at a task, if it is good enough for customers to be happy, go with it.

 

4.  Watch Your Language. Women don’t realize how often they portray themselves as non-entities or minimize their value. They apologize where there’s nothing to be sorry for, they draw attention to items that nobody needs to know and they downplay accomplishments. Often, women feel badly about talking about their work and business for fear of coming off self-promotional.

 

Use powerful language, own what you do and don’t offer irrelevant information that detracts from what you are accomplishing. That language informs your attitude, which informs your success. And remember that if you aren’t willing to promote yourself, it’s not likely that anyone else will either. People follow the cues you set for them.

    

     RELATED ARTICLE: 20 Inspirational Quotes for Entrepreneurs

 

5.  Expand Your Network. While it may be comfortable to network with people just like you, it will never get you to the next level. Go outside your comfort zone, approach and mingle with people who are where you want to be and let that inspire you to move up to their level.

 

6.  Set Your Own Goals. Lastly, it’s important to note we all have different definitions of success. For some people, family accomplishments are more important than professional ones and deserve extra focus. There are also some that judge contributions to a team and seeing projects succeed as more important than individual compensation or overall business growth. There are others that frankly don’t want the stress and responsibility that comes with trying to pursue an eight-, nine- or ten-figure business.

 

All of this is ok, as our individual success should be measured by our own goals and objectives. There may always be a differential in the types of businesses each individual pursues and how they approach them. If you are pursuing something based on your own measure of success, that’s not anyone else’s business to judge.

 

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

Yes, you want to stand out in what is becoming an ever-crowded marketplace, but no, you certainly do not want to shout and be obnoxious to get attention. Given that, is it actually possible to stand out, and if so, how?

 

The answer is yes, you can, and even better, doing so does not include yelling. I’ll tell you the secret in a moment, but first, a story:

 

Not long ago I went with my wife to an idyllic, small little fishing village on the Pacific coast of Mexico where the locals were kind, the beach perfect and the vibe just right (sorry, its name will remain a secret, amigos!) Many mornings we found ourselves at the same great little restaurant for breakfast.

 

           CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Did we keep coming back there for the delicious huevos rancheros? That was part of it. Was it because of our wonderful waitresses? Yes, but that was not the main reason. Even though there were tons of restaurants and bars in this town, we – and plenty more people – crowded this place every day. Why?

 

Free WiFi.

 

I54758428_s.jpgn a town where getting online was a challenge, free WiFi kept us coming back. Throughout the town there were little posters that said nothing more than “Free WiFi!” and the name of the restaurant. That was their X Factor to stand out in a crowded market.

 

Isn’t that true of your favorite businesses, the ones you frequent time and again? Don’t they offer something unique and out of the ordinary?

 

  • There is a bookstore in the Pacific Northwest called Powell’s World of Books. World of Books indeed. The store engulfs one full city block and is four stories high.
  • In Los Angeles, there is a fun sushi bar on the Westside. I don’t recall its real name because all anyone ever calls it is “Reggae Sushi.” Yep, reggae music all the time, mon.

 

These are X factors. These businesses have figured out something special to hang their hat on to distinguish themselves from the competition. So, the question you should ask yourself is – what is yours? What is it you do that is unique, different and special that you can tout that will make your business more memorable?

 

Here’s another example: Not long ago I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, giving a speech for the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Every year, the SBDC honors local businesses with a banquet, the culmination of which is the presentation of “Business of the Year” awards in various categories. I was fortunate enough to get to give the keynote at the banquet and meet these exceptional entrepreneurs. As I think back upon the award winners, each one had their own unique, memorable characteristic.

 

          RELATED ARTICLE: Is Your Small Business Ready to Go to Mars?

 

But my favorite was a company called Frontier Pharmacy. At a time when large drug store chains are putting local pharmacies out of business, Frontier Pharmacy is easily the busiest pharmacy in the area, routinely filling thousands of prescriptions a week. When I asked the owner what his secret was, he told me about the usual suspects – a great staff, loyal customers, and so on. Then he mentioned what I now see was his X Factor:

 

Free delivery.

 

Every day he has two full-time drivers do nothing but deliver prescriptions to his customers for free. “And I only hire retired gentleman,” he told me. Given many of his customers are ill or even invalid, it’s a brilliant idea.

 

So that is the answer. You don’t have to yell or be obnoxious to get noticed. You have to be different and better. What is your business differentiator? Figure it out, tout it and customers will find you and frequent your business more often – if not for the huevos rancheros then definitely for the free WiFi.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

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 Success. © Steven 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.

 

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

The holiday shopping season is almost upon us, and for retailers, 2017 has the potential to be a very good year. Consumers plan to spend an average of $728.40 each on gifts and other holiday purchases, according to The International Council of Shopping Centers’ (ICSC) Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey, which projects a 3.8 percent increase in retail sales this holiday season. Deloitte forecasts e-commerce sales to rise by 18 to 21 percent over last holiday season. There’s no need for brick-and-mortar retailers to worry, though: The vast majority of sales still happen offline, and more than 90 percent of shoppers plan to visit a physical store this holiday season.

As you gear up for the holidays, plan for success by avoiding these common holiday preparation mistakes.

 

1.  Waiting too long: Two-thirds of consumers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving, according to the ICSC, and 27 percent started in August. That means your planning should already be underway, too.

 

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

 

2.  Not hiring enough staff: Customers’ expectations for quick service are higher than ever before. Plus, competition for seasonal workers is stiff so it's important to make sure you’re adequately—and professionally—staffed. It's not too early to review scheduling and start hiring.

 

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3.  Selling old-fashioned paper gift certificates: Paper gift certificates give the impression your store is out of date. They also take more time to issue, since they have to be filled out by hand, and consumers are more likely to lose them or discard them by accident. Plastic gift cards are easy and affordable for even small retailers to offer, and are predicted to be the most popular holiday gift this season: ICSC says two-thirds of consumers plan to buy them. If you’re still offering paper gift certificates, moving to a plastic gift card program can really boost sales.

 

4.  Not updating your website: A whopping 85 percent of shoppers plan to research online before buying a product in a brick-and-mortar store, according to the ICSC study. Prepare your store’s website with a holiday makeover, including holiday-themed images, gift ideas and special offers. Add as much information as you can about the products you sell. The more detail you provide, the better.

 

5.  Not optimizing your website for local search: When consumers go online to find local stores, your business needs to show up in the search results. To do so, make sure your listings on local search directories are complete and consistent, with your name, address and phone number spelled exactly the same way in each place. Update your listings with information about holiday hours, holiday promotions and hot products.  While you’re at it, make sure your essential business information—your store’s location, hours and phone number—are prominently displayed on your website’s homepage.

 

6.  Not advertising online: Given that 85 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping online, according to the ICSC, investing in digital advertising should be a no-brainer. Create pay-per-click ads using keywords relevant to your store or to popular products you carry.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Tips for Hiring Seasonal Employees Ahead of the Holiday Rush

 

7.  Getting careless with the bottom line: Yes, consumers are projected to spend more this holiday season than last season. However, with increasing competition from online, offline and multichannel options, retailers are also expected to offer plenty of promotions. Don’t try to compete with Walmart or Target on Black Friday deals: Carefully calculate the costs and benefits of any promotions you offer, and stay on top of your profit margins throughout the season.

 

8.  Running out of inventory: Take advantage of your inventory management system’s features to project inventory needs based on last year’s sales and this years’ outlook. Stay on top of inventory on a daily basis so you don’t get caught short, or set alerts or automatic reorders when stock runs low.          

 

Make no mistake: By following these tips, you’ll be well prepared to enjoy success and reap the benefits of the holiday season. Happy selling!

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

Did you hear the one about the guy who went onto Facebook to launch a marketing campaign…and found himself watching funny cat videos three hours later?

 

Guilty as charged!

 

These days, it is easy for anyone to be very busy, yet very not productive. Between the many ways to communicate (phone, text, email, IM) and work (online, offline, remotely) and all the potential available distractions (the Internet,  mobile alerts, TV, life) it is a wonder we ever get anything done.

 

So yes, there is a fine line between being busy and being productive; the key is to understand the difference and aim for the latter. Here are a few quick tips to help you switch from keeping busy to staying productive:

 

          CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

1.  Start the night with a to-do list: At the end of the day, think about the next day, and create a list of essential action items. And remember, having too long a to-do list is overwhelming and can also be disheartening. Instead, focus on what you really need to accomplish the next day. Doing this the night before has the effect of giving you some distance from the actual work and allows you to see what is truly important.

 

2.  Make six lists: One of my go-to productivity pros is a lawyer friend who no longer practices and has instead ventured into sharing and selling marketing and productivity advice. His favorite productivity tip is to have not one to-do list, but six:34201639_s.jpg

 

  1. Ready: “This is an overview list of options to choose from, depending on how much time I have and my current context and priorities.”

  2. To-do today: “First thing in the morning, or the night before, I go to my “Ready” list and choose 3 tasks for the day.”

  3. Done: “As soon as I complete a task, I move it to this list. I used to delete done tasks; now I collect and review them to see my progress and learn when and how I work best.”

  4. Backlog: “These are tasks and projects I plan to do but I’m not ready to start and probably won’t be for a week or two. When I am ready, I’ll move tasks from this list to the Ready list. I check this list weekly.”

  5. Deferred: “I check this monthly. When I’m ready, I’ll move these to Backlog or Ready.”

  6. Someday/maybe: “I don’t know if I will do these or not. They are more ideas than anything I’m committed to doing.”

 

3.  Stop multitasking: In our hyper-busy society that values moving fast and always going, you’ve embraced multitasking. We all have. And that’s the problem. Have you ever considered breaking this golden rule?

 

You should.

 

Put down the iPhone and turn off the wireless. You will get a lot done.

 

More broadly, staying focused on a single task until it’s completed is one of the best things you can do for your productivity levels. Sure, multitasking will keep you busy all day, but it will not aid you in doing a quality job on a single task.

 

This is the essential difference between being busy and being productive.

 

 

4.  Plan your long-term goals: Long-term goal setting is a major part of ensuring your current and future productivity. By actively focusing on what it is that you want – what you really want – you will be able to make more calculated and deliberate decisions as to how you use your time.

 

A great way to start focusing more on your long-term goals is to write them down. The truth is, a thought is just a thought, after all. The secret is to write down what you want your long-term results to be and work backwards. Reverse engineer a process for getting from here to there.

 

And then add that to your lists above.

 

Voila! Productivity.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 8 Productivity Hacks when Working from Home

 

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.

 

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

Have you found a way to balance running your business with your personal life? A recent survey’s results were telling: 78% of women entrepreneurs believe they’ve found a good work-life balance – as compared with 85% of men who said the same, according to a Bank of America study of more than 1,000 small business owners.

Some of the disparity undoubtedly stems from expectations about traditional gender roles, but beyond that, there are ways women business owners can narrow that gap and achieve a better work-life balance. Here are three of the most effective tips:

 

1. Weave both halves of your life togetherBAC SBC Shama Hyder_Work Life Balance.jpg

So often, we hear advice telling us to separate our work and home lives – not to bring work home, or to confine work-related activities to a certain room of the house. But as entrepreneurs, that can be next to impossible. Running a business isn’t a 9-to-5 job, and if you’re passionate about what you do, you’re always thinking about it. In fact, for women entrepreneurs, 61% say they work more than 40 hours each week. Trying to create artificial boundaries between your work and your personal life can cause more frustration on both sides.

 

Instead, why not incorporate your personal life into your work life as fully as possible? Involve your partner or children in your day-to-day work. Enlist the help of friends and family when you’re hard at work solving a problem. If you hit a slump during the day, go take care of a few personal chores if you can, to free up time that evening to approach your work refreshed. Looking at your life as a whole with various parts interwoven evenly throughout, rather than trying to chop it equally in half, will make balance much more achievable.

        

          CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT SHAMA HYDER

 

2. Make ‘Me Time’ a priority

Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter to meet a tight deadline for a client or rushing around taking care of your family, stress hits entrepreneurs from all sides. That’s why it’s vital to disconnect and take some time for yourself every so often. Do something that takes you out of the daily grind – watch a movie or head to a spa, go hiking or spend a few hours volunteering at a pet shelter. Changing your surroundings and your focus for even a few hours will allow you to recharge and regain a sense of balance, so you can jump back into your day-to-day with new energy and enthusiasm.

 

3. Go with the flow

Ironically enough, accepting there won’t always be a balance between your work and home life can bring a sense of peace. From day to day and from week to week, there will be times when you have to be hyper-focused on your business, and times when you’ll need to be more present for your family and friends. That’s just the nature of life, and deciding to go with the flow and do what’s necessary in the moment, without guilt, will make for a much calmer, more balanced attitude toward your life.

Finding a good work-life balance can be tricky, but interestingly enough, it can be done most successfully in round-about ways like the above, rather than pursuing it head-on. Try these approaches and see what kind of a difference they make in the way you feel about your schedule.    

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Meet 5 of America’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder Headshot.png

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group–a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015.LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

 

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. 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

It’s National Women's Small Business Month, which is a perfect time to honor women’s achievements in the world of entrepreneurship. There are numerous other women entrepreneurs who, if I were writing a book about great women business owners, would be included, such as Coco Chanel, Oprah, Mary Kay Ash, Ruth Fertel, Leeann Chin, Mary Wells Lawrence, Muriel Siebert and Lillian Vernon. Today, however, I’d like to call attention to five stand-out transformative female entrepreneurs who revolutionized their industries.

 

1. Madam C.J. Walker

Meet 5 of America’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs_C.J. Walker.jpg

Madam C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) was one of the first female self-made millionaires in America—an astounding accomplishment for an African-American woman born to freed slaves in 1867. When she began losing her hair at a young age, she experimented with various solutions and in 1905 launched a hair care system designed for African-Americans.

 

Walker and her husband toured the U.S. promoting her products through demonstrations. Madam C.J. Walker Laboratories also employed door-to-door salespeople to market the product directly to African-American women—a precursor to the Avon lady. By 1910 the business had more than 3,000 employees; by 1919, when she died, it was valued at over $1 million. A philanthropist, Walker gave generously to causes assisting African-Americans and women.

 

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

 

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2.  Estée Lauder

Born in 1908, Estée Lauder (born Josephine Esther Mentzer) learned to make skin creams from her Hungarian uncle, and demonstrated them on women sitting under hairdryers at beauty salons. In 1946, she and husband Joseph Lauder started the company; their first order came from Saks Fifth Avenue.

 

A pioneer in beauty marketing, Lauder introduced the concept of “Gift With Purchase” now widely used in the beauty industry. Her emphasis on word-of-mouth marketing ("Telephone, telegraph, tell a woman,” she used to say) suggests she would have had lots of social media followers today. The Estée Lauder Companies is still a family-owned business.

 

 

3. Martha Stewart

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Martha Stewart wasn’t always a lifestyle maven—she also worked as a model and then as a stockbroker in the early 1970s (a time when women on Wall Street were almost unheard of). When she and her then-husband moved to Connecticut in 1972, she threw herself into restoring their new home, a 19th-century farmhouse. Inspired by the project, she taught herself to cook and started a catering company.

 

Stewart parlayed the success of her catering business into several best-selling cookbooks, and in 1991, launched Martha Stewart Living magazine. Her television show and line of housewares were also huge hits. Despite a bump in the road in 2003, when she was indicted for insider trading related to her company’s IPO, Stewart bounced back and is still showing us how to live graciously.

 

 

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4. Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran’s official bio says she got straight D's throughout high school—but the more than 20 jobs she had held by age 23 served as her education. In 1973, she co-founded a real estate business with her boyfriend. The business thrived, but a few years later her boyfriend left her for another woman, telling Corcoran she’d never succeed without him.

 

Corcoran Group, the first woman-owned real estate business in New York City, was a success from its first year. The company began selling real estate online in 1993, pioneering the concept, and by 2001, revenues neared $100 million. In 2006, Corcoran sold the company for $66 million. Today, she’s one of the judges on ABC’s Shark Tank, helping other entrepreneurs fine-tune their ideas and succeed.

 

 

5. Sara Blakely

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Like many women, Sara Blakely didn’t like how she looked in white pants. But, unlike many, she actually did something

about it: cutting off the feet of a pair of pantyhose and wearing them under her pants, streamlining her look. Convinced her idea had potential, she used $5,000 saved from her door-to-door sales job to patent the product and develop a prototype.

 

In 1998, Blakely made her first sale to a Neiman Marcus buyer after dragging her into the bathroom to demonstrate the product. Two years later, sales soared when SPANX was featured as one of “Oprah's Favorite Things.” America’s youngest self-made female billionaire, Blakely still owns her company, which is entirely self-funded. In 2006 she launched the Sara Blakely Foundation to support women’s causes; in 2013 she became the first female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, promising to give away the majority of her money to giving back.

 

          RELATED ARTICLE: Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva 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

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