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General Business

57 Posts authored by: SBC Team

Spring-SBOR-Thumb.gifDespite challenges, small business owners are still optimistic about the future, embracing self-sacrifice while prioritizing employees and customer relationships.


Seven years after the Great Recession began, two-thirds (64%) of small business owners report their businesses are still in the process of recovering, according to Bank of America’s spring 2015 Small Business Owner Report. The report, based on a semiannual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country, says that only one in five (21%) small businesses state they have completely recovered from the recession.

 

However, despite these lingering impacts from the Great Recession, small business owners are still confident about the future growth of their businesses.

 

“Small business owners are optimistic about the future and are working extremely hard to achieve success,” said Robb Hilson, Small Business executive. “As they have focused on recovery, many business owners have embraced a mindset of self-sacrifice. They are prioritizing their employees and customers above all else and it is often at the expense of their own personal or financial well-being.”

 

The report also found that small business owners have been working long hours, forgoing raises and delaying their own compensation as they focus on investing in employees, and attracting and rewarding repeat customers.

 

Investing in employees

 

When it comes to their employees, small business owners overwhelmingly find the need to reward them and show their appreciation in a variety of ways. Almost all small business owners (94%) surveyed say their companies have employee appreciation programs.


Celebrate-Article-Vert-sm.gifIn addition to appreciation programs, small business owners are investing in helping their employees perform better and grow in their careers. “Small business owners are seeking more support through lending than they did a year ago. Citing difficulty in locating qualified candidates, small business owners’ number one priority for using loan capital is training and developing existing staff,” Robb said.


Strengthening customer relationships

 

Establishing relationships with customers is a primary driver of repeat business, and small business owners are showing their appreciation to their customers in a variety of ways. More than half (57%) of the survey respondents feel they receive repeat business because of the relationships they have developed with their customer base. This sentiment is even stronger among Baby Boomer owners (71%) compared with 47% of Millennials and 53% of Gen Xers.

 

Click here to download the full Bank of America Small Business Owner Report in PDF format.


Thank-You-Thumb.gifYou work around the clock and life can move pretty fast. Which is why we just want to stop and say how much we appreciate all you’ve done for the economy.


Click here to view the infographic.



Note:  We're celebrating small business all month long.  As a small thank you, we’ve compiled our newest and most popular content for you here.

Then-Now-Thumb.gifLife moves pretty fast. And a lot has changed recently, especially in terms of technology and business. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how things have evolved.

 

Click here to view the infographic.

 

 

Note: We're celebrating small business all month long.  As a small thank you, we’ve compiled our newest and most popular content for you here.

What is the Small Business Community?

 

You may be wondering- what is this Small Business Community all about? How it can help you and your business? By participating in the Small Business Community (SBC), you can gain knowledge and connections that give you a competitive advantage in building a successful business.

 

Click here to watch a short video to learn more about the SBC.

 

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Small Business Social Series: Women in Business: Rising Revenues, Optimism, and Power – How to Take Advantage of This Momentum  If you were unable to join our live video event, you can watch the replay right here. In this event, panelists shared time saving tips and products to help you better manage your small business.

 

Description: Welcome to the Small Business Social Series sponsored by Bank of America.  The panel will explore trends, hot topics and concerns among women small business owners and will be moderated by Carol Roth.

You will hear from:

  • Jill Calabrese Bain: Small Business Banking National Sales Executive, Preferred & Small Business Banking, Bank of America
  • Kimberly Weisul: Editor-at-Large, Inc. Magazine
  • Darla Beggs, Chair, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO

In order for your business to succeed and even flourish as you go up against larger corporations, you must first play to your strengths.  In this series of Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations guides, being smart with how you creatively approach your business will help you make the most of your opportunities, especially in these four areas.

 

Click on any of the four guides below to learn more.


Talent-Thumb.jpgBusiness-Operations-Thumb2.jpgSupply-Chain-Thumb.jpgMarketing-Effectiveness-Thumb.jpg

Business-Operations-Thumb.gifThe most important part of running a growing company is how you manage day-to-day operations. And it’s even more important when you’re going up against larger corporations in your industry. Discover how to maximize your process in “Business Operations,” the second guide in our “Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations” series.

 

Click here to download the PDF guide "Leveling the Playing Field: Business Operations"

 

 

Click here to read all four of the Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations guides.

Supply-Chain-Thumb.gifIf you want to compete against larger corporations, you must control your supply chain – not let it control you. Understanding how each part of the process works in relation to each other – and maintaining a true balance among all of them – is the key. Learn more in “Supply Chain Operations,” the third guide in our “Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations” series.

 

Click here to download the PDF guide "Leveling the Playing Field: Supply Chain Operations"

 

 

Click here to read all four of the Leveling the Playing Field Against Larger Corporations guides.

SBOR-Inforgraphic.jpgWe are pleased to share the spring 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study that uncovers the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners around the country.

 

Our industry is seeing an exciting shift – a rise in the growth of women-owned businesses. As such, this report takes a special look at female small business owners, and how they deal with the demands of running their own business – from family dynamics to aspirational goals.

 

We also compared attitudes of female and male entrepreneurs and found that women show more optimism than their male counterparts about the future of their businesses.  Yet across the board, they are more concerned about broader economic issues including health care costs, interest rates and the strength of the U.S. dollar.

 

 

 

 

Click Here to Download the full Spring Small Business Owner Report.


Business_Lifecycle_Thumbnail.gifEvery stage in the life of a business has its own rewards – and challenges. What works at startup may not necessarily work as your business grows and matures. Find out how you can fund and be prepared for each stage in the life of your company with our new infographic, Six Stages of a Business Lifecycle.


Click here to view the Six Stages of a Business Lifecycle infographic.


We are pleased to share the fall 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study that uncovers the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country. Our fall report takes a close look at the challenges of finding and retaining the right talent, revenue and growth expectations, the impact of the holiday season and access to capital.


Small business owners surveyed are optimistic about their growth in 2014, with nearly one-third planning to hire over the next 12 months, and more than half expecting their revenue to increase over the same time period. The critical role talent plays in the success of a business is one area where all owners can agree; however, finding and keeping the right talent can be difficult. Fall_SBOR.gifAlmost half of those surveyed say finding qualified employees is difficult, and more than nine in ten take steps to retain the valuable workers they already employ.

 

At Bank of America, we know that small business owners are an essential element of our local and national economies. That’s why our banking experts are there for them, in neighborhoods across the country, to help them with their deposit, investment, cash management and credit needs.

 

Whether they’re looking to make operational improvements or grow their employee base, Bank of America is committed to helping our small business clients realize their vision for a successful 2014.

 

Click Here to Download the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report.



We are pleased to share the spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study that uncovers the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country. This study examines a variety of leading issues for small business owners, including the personal health and wellness, revenue and growth expectations, preparedness for the unexpected and access to capital.

 

 


Small business owners are not only focused on improving the financial health of their company, they are also focused on their own personal health and their employees’ wellness. Nearly nine in 10 of those surveyed report taking some steps to improve employee health and wellness. When thinking SBOR-Thumbnail.jpgabout the next 12 months, they are optimistic regarding their revenue and hiring expectations but remain concerned about the health of the overall economy. In addition, Millennial (18-to-34-years-old) small business owners are the most optimistic across all age groups regarding what the future holds for the economy and their business

 

At Bank of America, we know that small business owners are an essential element of our national and local economies. We are committed to offering the personal connection and local expertise of our bankers who are dedicated to the success of both small businesses and their communities.

 

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Click Here to Download the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report.

 

Click Here to View the Informational Charts and Graphics.

We are pleased to share the Fall 2012 Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study that uncovers the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners across the country. This study examines a variety of topics that are top of mind for small business owners, including the upcoming holiday season, revenue and growth expectations for 2013, business management and access to capital.

 

 

Small business owners want to grow or sustain the level of success they’ve experienced in 2012, in the year ahead. They are optimistic about revenue and hiring expectations, but are still wary about the health of the economy.

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Moreover, small business owners are overwhelmingly committed to running their business, with the vast majority saying they’ve never had second thoughts about their decision to start a company, despite the stress it can cause them.

 

At Bank of America, we share in this commitment and continue to provide small business owners with the personalized counsel they need to manage their deposit, credit and cash management needs. Small business is without question the most critical driving factor of our national and local economies. We will continue to provide the resources, specialists, research and insights needed to enable small business owners’ success in the coming year.

 

Click Here to Download the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report.

 

Click Here to Download the Informational Charts and Graphics.

Disaster-Recovery.jpgIf your small business was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, you might need help navigating available programs and finding assistance.


Click here to read some ideas and tips to help recover quickly and get your business up and running again. And if you were fortunate enough to avoid Hurricane Sandy, this is still good information to keep on hand in the event you are affected by disaster in the future.

White-in-article.jpgFour tips to keeping customers coming back and sales staying put.

 

By Sherron Lumley.

 

Giving back is an admirable holiday tradition, but not one that retailers like to experience at their customer returns desk. And though this holiday season’s sales figures set a new record, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that merchants will have had to give back 10 percent of that revenue—roughly $47 billion—in returns come the end of January.

 

So how does a small business avoid this blowback effect and ensure its sales stick? Two small business owners share their post-holiday strategies for keeping sales strong and customers coming back (to buy).

 

Tip # 1:  It starts with good customer service

 

Bill Evans, longtime owner of the Pacific Northwest Shop in Tacoma, Washington, says holiday returns call for “C.S. and that stands for customer service.” For four decades, his store has prided itself on that very trait, so he treats the post-holiday period no differently. Service is what they are known for, he says, from complimentary gift wrap to hassle-free returns.  Whatever it is, “we take it off their hands,” says Evans, who chuckles and adds, “the fellows just stand there and say, ‘You do everything!’”

 

Pull-Quote-Tall.pngAt nearby Dwell Home Décor in Tacoma, Suzanne Molt says their return policy also emphasizes customer service, allowing for refunds or exchanges within 14 days with a receipt. “We don’t want them to worry about their gift purchases,” she says. When customers know their holiday gifts are returnable, she adds, “It makes them more comfortable.”

 

It’s important to remember, though, that most people don’t bring gifts back. In fact, a NRF Holiday Returns Survey from 2010 found that nearly two-thirds of holiday gift recipients—64.5 percent—didn’t return a single item. Still, retailers would be wise to plan for extra staff during the traditional post-holiday rush to ensure a more seamless experience and to avoid souring the customer on your business as a whole. And that idea that there’s still goodwill to be salvaged in customers returning items is an critical one—the same NRF survey found that the nine out of 10 Americans say they find store return policies to be “fair.”

 

 

Tip # 2:  An annual January sale

 

Every January for the last 35 years, Evans’s Pacific Northwest store has had its once-a-year sale. His customers now look forward to the annual event, where he features artisanal products such as paper, clothing, wine, food, books, pottery and tea made by small, local businesses. The five-day January sale achieves about 50 percent of his total holiday rush volume, which means the shop can pay more money to its producers in what is traditionally a tough sales month.

 

At Dwell Home Décor, Molt sends out a direct mail coupon for 25 percent off one item in January to bring customers back into the store. For customers with returns, Molt says her staff tries to suggest a replacement item rather than just refund the cash.

 

 

Tip # 3:  Keep the sales momentum going to the next ‘event’

 

Because Dwell carries many gift items, one thing it does to keep January sales up is to start promoting Valentine’s Day early. Molt, who took over the business with her partner two and a half years ago, says it gives customers another reason to visit the store. For its part, the Pacific Northwest Shop begins to promote several annual charity events right after the holiday season, such as a local Breast Cancer run.

 

 

Tip # 4:  Tap into online sales (where returns are less common)

 

“We’ve had Internet sales for five years and we just got our first return,” notes Evans, who recounts the tale of a woman in the eastern part of the country who wasn’t satisfied with the paté she ordered. As part of his hassle-free returns policy, he issued a refund immediately, likely saving her as a customer. “We’ve worked our Internet sales up to 25 percent of our business,” he says. And with a lower rate of returns, e-commerce sales can help a small business to thrive, not just survive.

 

Internet sales also add to a company’s bottom line by opening up new markets. What’s more, when trying to avoid a post-holiday sales hangover, it’s important to remember international markets also have different holiday seasons. For example, the Pacific Northwest Shop just filled an order to ship tea…to China, where the important New Year’s holiday arrives during a typically slow period in the Western calendar—late January or early February. 

 

Tip #5: Beating Holiday Return Fraud

 

Unfortunately, the high volume of holiday returns brings with it a higher level of fraud. For the 2010 holiday season, 7.5 percent of all returns were suspected to be fraudulent and four out of five retailers were likely victimized at some point. In all, nearly $4 billion is expected to be lost to fraudulently returned merchandise this year, according to the NRF’s Return Fraud Survey. Stolen merchandise and employee fraud returns were the most common types, but other tactics such as receipt counterfeiting and wardrobing—the return of used, non-defective merchandise—were also pervasive. 

 

There are two commonly recognized (and easy to implement) tactics that business can use to prevent return fraud. One, follows Molt’s lead and establish a firm time period—two weeks, in her case—beyond which returns are not accepted. Then stick to it, especially after the holidays. Two, ask to see customer ID for all returns. This is a particularly effective method for preventing fraudulent returns of those items presented without a receipt, but one-third of retailers still don’t take this simple step.

 

To beat the holiday return blues, keep in mind that customers returning to the store are an opportunity to generate more sales, not just lose them to returns. Since some shoppers may be visiting the store for the first time, it’s also chance for a small business to introduce itself through excellent customer service in the hopes they do come back. But not to give back.

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