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159 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngWho do you think is happier at work? Worker A works for a fine company with a decent salary and modest benefits package. He has a normal job with standard duties and much predictability. His employers expect him to work about 40 hours a week, and he does, but there is little creativity or room for upward mobility in his position.

 

Worker B owns her own business and in the process, has created a demanding job for herself. Her flexible schedule necessitates that she works long hours – definitely more than 40 per week – and she often finds herself working at night and on weekends. Sometimes she even has nightmares about her business failing.

 

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According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that our entrepreneur, worker B, actually feels quite fulfilled with her choice and work (and I think it is safe to say that the employee likely feels pretty stifled). In fact, according to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, entrepreneurs generally state that they find their work:

 

  • “Fulfilling”
  • “Enjoyable”
  • “Interesting”

 

Those are some strong adjectives.

 

Maybe even most interesting is  while these entrepreneurs clearly work long hours, the ever-elusive work-life balance doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them.

 

Why is that?

 

22815177_s.jpgIn my opinion,  the answer is that for many small business owners, work doesn’t much feel like work. It feels more like passion. Oh, sure, they work hard – Worker B works way harder than Worker A – but because it is their own work, based on their own vision, passion, values and schedule. It seems less like work and more like a vocation.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THE EASE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOING GREEN

 

This is not to say that their work isn’t difficult and challenging. When asked to describe their experience as a small business owner, 47% said that it is “demanding”.  Almost a third (30%) used the word “stressful” to describe their job. And yes, a quarter even had nightmares about their business failing. Despite this, most small business owners also said they have little issue with their work-life balance, even though they work a lot. How long are the hours? Pretty long! More than three in five said that they work more than 40 hours per week, and more than 75% of respondents, stated that their work interferes with their home life.

 

And even so, consider these surprising statistics from the Report:

 

  • Business owners are more likely to report that they have achieved a work-life balance (82%)
  • 80% said they are “satisfied” with the number of hours they work, and
  • Almost all report that they love the flexibility and schedule that being self-employed offers them

 

So, what can we make of all of this? Clearly, small business owners are of a different breed, a breed that values creativity, flexibility, and hard work above regularity, predictability, and ease.

 

And yes, they love their work.

 

In fact, that seems to be the bottom line, the X factor in all of this. When you love something, it is difficult to see it as getting in the way of other things, even if one of those other things is time off. That is why Worker B, the entrepreneur, is the more fulfilled of our two hypothetical workers. She does work that is demanding, yes, but also fulfilling. Worker A has work that is neither demanding nor fulfilling. So, what should he do? Perhaps start his own business.

 

 


 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngWith Earth Day coming up, and the Paris Accords in the news, it’s a good time to think a bit about what we can each do in our respective businesses to make the world a little bit better, a little greener.

 

The problem is that many believe their own individual ecological efforts, especially when compared to the scope of the problem, can be pretty minuscule and inconsequential. If that describes you, there are two points to consider:

  1. Remember that individual actions do add up. That is how things change in all areas of life and business.
  2. Because businesses have a larger ecological footprint than individuals, business owners can have an even bigger impact.

 

The good news is that becoming more environmentally friendly makes you green in two great ways. First, greening your business helps green the planet, and second, greening your business also can help generate more green.

 

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Sustainability is both good business and good for business, as it turns out.

 

Here are some of my top reasons and ways for businesses to go green:

 

Cost savings: Here are just a few of the things you can do to do your part:

  • Make re-using and recycling easy by having recycling bins available throughout the office
  • Go paperless to the extent you can
  • When buying new technology, purchase Energy Star certified goods
  • Install power timers so that equipment and lights go off at night
  • Encourage employees to take public transit or bikes to work
  • Ban plastic water bottles and offer filtered water instead so that employees can refill their water bottles at work

 

Little changes can create big results.

 

11897666_s.jpgHealthier work environment: If you choose to go green by offering organic food instead of junk food, you are directly promoting the personal physical health of your employees, which can lead to better moods and fewer sick days. Using environmentally friendly cleaning products is also excellent for the health of your employees. In fact, according to the Green Business Bureau, there is a 20 percent decrease in number of sick days for companies that actively promote a healthier workplace.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: GREAT ENTREPRENEURS START SMALL – CONSIDER HOWARD, RAY AND AMADEO

 

It’s good for morale: An ethical and sustainable work environment is increasingly becoming one of the most important requirements for young professionals. These in-demand millennials appreciate your efforts.  Consider creating a green suggestion box for instance. By offering a prize for the best ideas, you will really get some good ones as well as some happy, loyal employees.

 

Tax benefits: Some states offer tax credits for businesses that go green. For example, in Florida, businesses who either use solar energy or produce electricity from renewable energy facilities are eligible for special tax deductions. Using hybrid cars and wind energy can also be tax deductible.

 

Good customer relations: Another way to make a difference is to encourage your customers to be greener. For instance, you can

  • Offer green products. Adding green products to your inventory mix is easy and affordable and customers will love that they have that choice.
  • Offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable shopping bags.
  • Finally, consider matching donations (up to a certain limit) made by customers to the environmental charity of their choice. This would not only burnish your green credentials, but would be a nice tax write-off to boot.

 

Good PR: Being able to advertise all the things your business does to be green is very attractive to many consumers. This can actually grow your customer base, since the sharp increase in public environmental consciousness has created a growing desire to patronize environmentally friendly businesses.

 

By being a more environmentally-friendly business, you can make yourself stand out against the crowd. Planetary green looks very good against corporate beige.

 


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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngMy worst boss ever once threatened to put his cigarette out on my forehead.

 

Let’s just say he wasn’t what you’d call a great leader (although, irony of ironies, we worked for a leadership development company).

 

Yes, we have all had really, really bad bosses at some point in our life. You know the type: Bosses who schedule you on days you can’t work, who berate you, who are unorganized, who take credit for your work, who don’t communicate well, assign you massive projects with very little time, make you work late, etc. The list goes on and on.

 

It is no fun to work for a bad boss.

 

While bad boss stories make great fodder for stories at parties, tales among friends or intros to blogs, in the actual workplace, bad leadership is no joke. Every team needs a leader, and this is especially true in small business, where so much depends upon the style, vision and abilities of the leader/owner.

 

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So what makes for a good small business leader? It is not enough for a leader to be not terrible. A good leader should make you feel comfortable and at ease, excited and inspired. A good leader should not be okay with sticking with the same-old, same-old. The leader should be constantly looking for new ways to lead and engage, to discover and invent.

 

Although it is difficult to boil it down to a sentence or a definition, there certainly are traits that all great small business leaders share:

 

Passion: Entrepreneurs start businesses because they are passionate about an idea. But great entrepreneurs become great leaders when they enroll other people in that vision. Getting people excited about the business is fundamental to being a team leader. It is the passionate leader who is a great leader; their dedication to the goal shines through and percolates into all of their interactions and decisions. That type of passion is infectious.

 

RELATED STORY: REMOTE WORKERS ARE HAPPY WORKERS: MY TIPS FOR MAKING SMART HIRES

 

Excellent communication skills: Good leadership means making a habit of asking your employees how they’re feeling, what they are thinking, what’s working, what’s not, and what they need help with. It means sharing the vision. It also means listening.

 

Playing fair: A bad boss is the one who always seems to be on a power trip, using their title to justify their bad behavior or poor decision making. Great bosses and great small business leaders inspire confidence because they have little interest in their own ego, and are much more focused on making sure that the team succeeds. For this boss, the welfare of the company is much more important than their own pride.

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Positive attitude: A great leader inspires those around him or her with his or her positivity. Their belief in a better future, in the mission, vision and business, enables others to dream and think big too.

 

Creativity: A small business leader must be adaptable and creative, especially because there is often a shortage of money or time. Some of their new ideas work, others don’t, but that doesn’t stop them.

 

Integrity: Last but certainly not least, a great leader must have integrity within himself and those around him. It is through hard work, dedication, vision, honesty, and smarts that the leader leads effectively.

 

Walking the talk creates the context for excellence, and that truly is what makes for a great small business leader. (And let’s just say that it helps if they don’t want to use your head for an ashtray!)

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngPeople start their own businesses for all sorts of reasons – money, boredom, fear, freedom, inspiration – you name it. But whatever the reason, one thing all entrepreneurs have in common is that they want to succeed - to create a business that grows.

 

A common fear people have is they look at the entrepreneurial success stories of folks like Richard Branson (Virgin) or Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and they somehow think they started out successful.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Indeed, what gets lost sometimes is that every business starts small, very small. And then, somehow, be it sheer force of will, good luck, a great idea, timing, or a combination, some entrepreneurs break away from the pack and end up growing very big ventures. It happens all the time.

 

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

 

Consider Howard Schultz and Starbucks. Of course, these days Starbucks is ubiquitous, a behemoth, but it sure wasn’t when Schultz first happened upon it. In 1979, Schultz was an employee of a Swedish coffee maker company. One of his customers was a small coffee bean company with a few shops located in and around Seattle called Starbucks. Schultz loved the potential of the little company, so much in fact, that within a year he got himself hired as Starbucks Director of Marketing.

 

It was on a buying trip in Milan, Italy when Howard Schultz had the epiphany that changed both his life – and how you drink coffee. Schultz noticed that dripped espresso bars were everywhere, and served as de-facto community spots. Upon his return, he tried to get the owners of Starbucks to buy into this vision for the company (at the time, Starbucks only sold beans and machines, not drip coffee). 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: THREE IDEAS FOR WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS TO HELP OTHERS FOLLOW THEIR PATH

 

Schultz’s vision was so clear, and overwhelming, that he eventually bought the fledgling company from the owners and, as they say, the rest is history. But the overall point is important – Howard Schultz started out as an employee whose vision created a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

 

47375852_l.jpgRay Kroc’s story is similar. Ray was a milkshake mixer salesman in his mid-50’s when he called on two brothers, customers of his whose diner blew him away. The single restaurant they ran was unlike anything Ray had ever seen before – clean, fast, efficient, and profitable. He had to be part of it.

 

Like Howard Schultz, Ray had a giant vision for a business that was not his. And like Schultz, he didn’t let that stop him. And he too got himself hired by the then-owners, he too was thwarted, and yes, he too eventually bought out the owners. The parallels are eerie.

 

McDonald’s also became ubiquitous after Ray Kroc entered the scene.

 

Or consider the story of Amadeo Pietro Giannini. In 1904, Giannini started a small bank called the Bank of Italy, located in San Francisco. The bank served the needs of the immigrant community that was often ignored. Giannini got his big break in 1906 when, after the San Francisco earthquake leveled most of the city, he got his customers’ deposits out of his building and saved them from the fire that engulfed the city. Covering two barrels with a few planks, he set up shop on Market Street and began to lend money to residents looking to rebuild their beloved city.

 

And that, my friends, is how Bank of America started.

 

So, bravo to you, my entrepreneurial friend, even if all you have is a big idea. History proves, when combined with a big heart, a big work ethic, and a drive to succeed, it’s a compelling combination that often leads to huge entrepreneurial success.

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngThe first time I walked into my mother-in-law’s home, I saw a sign that read, “Mi casa es su casa,” meaning in English “my home is your home.” And boy, that was the truth. Irene was a wonderful woman who made everyone feel special. Her outlook on life is that family always came first and hard work was expected. She’s strong, devoted, smart, funny, loyal and she passed her values down to her kids, including my wife Maria.

 

When I met my wife, she was a single mom who had just started her own small business. She worked incredibly hard and was 100% committed to her daughter, her family, and her business. She was (and is!) an enthusiastic whirlwind.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

She is not alone. I was not surprised, indeed was heartened, when I was able to review a sneak peek of the inaugural Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Spotlight. The Spotlight surveyed 348 Hispanic small business owners from across the country on a range of issues and tells a story of business ownership not unlike my wife and not unlike her mom.

 

It tells a story of confidence, commitment, and community.

 

Not only are Hispanic entrepreneurs one of the fastest growing segments of all small businesses, they are also among the most optimistic. According to the Spotlight:

 

  • 71% of the Hispanic business owners surveyed expect their revenue to increase in 2017
  • 76% plan on growing their business over the next five years, and
  • More than half plan on hiring new staff this year

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Like all small business owners, Hispanic entrepreneurs are concerned about a wide range of business issues. Twenty-three percent say achieving work-life balance is a top challenge, 19% report finding qualified employees to be their biggest concern, and 11% find day-to-day operations to be their biggest issue.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHY YOU NEED A BUSINESS PARTNER

 

But one place where Hispanic small business owners seem to be unique, and one of the most interesting aspects of the Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Spotlight, is when it comes to family and community. It turns out that community is vital to the success of Hispanic small business owners.

 

This shows up in three ways:

 

  • Hispanic business owners are much more likely to turn to family for business support. This is especially clear with regards to financial, operational and emotional support – and most (93%) reported turning to family for such support.
  • Community plays a huge role in the success of Hispanic small businesses. Whereas less than half of non-Hispanic business owners indicated that community support was key to their success, almost three-quarters of Hispanic entrepreneurs say it is. And by the same token, just about the same number say that they give back to the community that supports them.
  • Finally, and this one does not surprise me at all when I look at my own extended family, the Hispanic small business owners in the Spotlight report by more than a two-to-one margin that they plan on passing their small business on to a family member. Only 18% of non-Hispanics indicate they would, compared to 42% of the Hispanics surveyed.

 

It’s almost as if the sign in my family’s house could have said “Mi negocio es su negocio.”

 

My business is your business.

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngFor the small business, I always say that it is better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. Your chances of standing out are a lot better if the pond is smaller, right?

 

The problem is finding a smaller pond is not easy these days. Between local competition, online competition, a global marketplace and social media, getting heard and seen (and bought) above the din is challenging. This is why I am so excited to share this remarkable stat with you:

 

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

 

According to the United States Department of Commerce, only 1 percent of the 30 million businesses in the United States export.

 

1 percent!

 

Consider what a golden opportunity that is. Indeed, as the Department of Commerce website Trade.gov says, “exporting is good for your bottom line.” They provide five reasons why:

 

1. Access: Access to worldwide markets is easier than ever due to the Internet, improvements in trade finance, etc.

2. Demand: More than 70 percent of all markets are located outside the U.S.

3. Profitability: “On average, sales grow faster, more jobs are created, and employees [of exporting countries] earn more than in non-exporting firms.”

4. Competitive advantage: U.S. goods are admired and desired worldwide.

5. Less risk: Selling in more markets reduces the risk of business fluctuations.

 

So, how do you jump on the export train? Here are the steps:

 

1. Analyze your competitive advantage: What is it you can offer to a global audience that is unique, different or special? Maybe you have international contacts, or experience? Do you sell a product that could prove to be popular overseas? Do you know a foreign language? Are there countries or foreign companies that need what you offer?

 

RELATED: TAKE A FRESH LOOK AT YOUR PRICING STRATEGY

 

Your business idea or product should capitalize on your strengths, and on your unique attributes. 

 

2. Do your homework. Make no mistake, exporting takes work. This is true all along the path – from inception through sale. And that means, especially up front, you need to do your homework and make sure your idea or product is viable. Taking time at the beginning will save you time, money, effort and headaches later on.

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There is a lot of help available where you can do this research. Check out:

 

 

The point of this research is to discover whether or not there is an international market for what you want to sell and if so, where. It will also help to show what doing business there would be like, and whether you would like it. 

 

3. Get your website ready. You may need a version of your site in a different language, or you may need a new site altogether.

 

4. Create the foundation: Selling internationally requires jumping through some hoops:

 

  • You will need to handle export compliance – licenses, certificates, etc. This site can help
  • Payments and sales will need to be considered – the currency you will use, how to handle refunds and returns, etc. 
  • Exporting will also require a knowledge of, and appreciation for, language and cultural differences
  • An export management company (EMC) represents many different exporters, finds business, and can handle logistics, financing, and more

 

You can find export intermediaries at international trade shows, by doing an online search, or by contacting the National Association of Export Companies (www.nexco.org).

 

The bottom line is that exporting affords you a great opportunity because, among other things, there is less competition. The bad news however is that it takes time and effort to get started. But, if you do it right, exporting your goods should offer you a nice profit center for years to come.

 

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

 

 

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngPricing your business’ products or services is a tricky business. You don’t want them to be too high because that will drive customers away. You don’t want them to be too low because that will leave money on the table. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, you want your prices to be just right.

 

Easier said than done, you say? Maybe, but let’s take a deeper look.

 

When looking to set the optimal price for the things you sell, there are three foundational factors to consider.

 

1. Your cost. With the exception of some rare circumstances determining the costs for you to buy something is where you must start when setting your prices. If you pay $10 to buy a widget, then that’s that. But don’t stop there. You must also factor in your overhead. Overhead includes factors such as:

 

  • Rent
  • Labor
  • Insurance

 

Between the wholesale cost of the item and related overhead, you get your base cost.

 

THE 7 BUDGETING TIPS YOU NEED TO CONSIDER

 

2. Your brand. What you would pay for a VW is not the same as what you would pay for a Mercedes. Why? Because each company has a different brand, different quality and different pricing strategies.

 

The same is true for your business, brand and pricing. If it’s a high-end shop, then you need to charge high-end prices. If you are the “low-price leader,” needless to say, you need to have low, low prices.

 

The key factors to remember about both is that the luxury market allows you to charge more and make a greater profit per sale, but you will sell less. The lower price strategy allows you to penetrate the market more, sell more, but make less per sale. Both are equally valid, but the one you choose depends on your brand.

 

3. The competition: You must consider what the competition is doing. If they sell that widget for $15, you are going to need to be in that ballpark. This is especially true, today, when it is so easy to price compare online.

 

Remember this too: Price is just one factor that people consider when making their buying decisions. Sure, there are times when it is the most important thing, but not always. How often is price the main reason you bought something? Exactly. It’s important, but not always the deciding factor.

 

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With that foundation in place, here are a few pricing strategies to consider:

 

59230087_s.jpgThe loss leader: The loss leader is a tried-and-true strategy that can be a great way to grow any business. It’s a simple concept. You offer a popular product at a steep discount, at a loss even. By offering this, you lead customers to your business, hence, “loss leader.”

 

The idea is that once they get to your store to buy the sale item, they will hopefully buy other products or services from you as well that are not marked down. When you see an ad for an amazing sale somewhere, that store is hoping to lure you into their shop with the discounted ad price, and then sell you something else.

 

Other than getting a sale, the loss leader strategy can also be also used for:

 

  • Getting rid of unwanted merchandise: The loss leader can move old merchandise.
  • Attracting new customers: People love sales.
  • Building your brand: If you would like to be known as the “low-cost leader,” this strategy will help.
  • Build repeat customers: As indicated, people like a bargain. If they find that you are offering one, then they will likely come back again.

 

The luxury price: At the other end of the spectrum, selling for more works great if that fits your brand. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview, “We never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone.” The Apple strategy has long been:

 

  • Offer a few high-end products
  • Pursue high profit over broad market share

 

This type of strategy can work if you have some sort of competitive advantage in which people are willing to pay a premium.

 

Psychology pricing: Along similar lines, prices that end in odd numbers seem cheaper than those ending in whole numbers. A widget for $14.99 is different than a widget for $15.

 

When it comes to pricing, what works is often a matter of taking all the above into account, adding in some trial and error, and finding the sweet spot of price.

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot.pngBack when I was an anonymous young associate lawyer at a big law firm, I had big dreams. I wanted to be an author. The fact that I had never even had a letter to the editor published should have stopped me, but it didn’t. It took a lot of perseverance, striking out, and planning big, and eventually I was able to make the leap.

 

Many small businesses face similar dilemmas. Stuck in a rut, they oftentimes want to grow, make more money, and make a difference. The question is, how do you take your business from small to big?

 

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

 

As a small business owner, you are likely very comfortable with the way you do things. However, if you feel like you’re ready to grow and take your business to the next level, the first thing to understand is that it’s time to get uncomfortable; bigger businesses do things differently. Indeed, to play in the big(ger) leagues, you will need to let go of your old ways, and learn some new tricks.

 

Here are four of the most important small-to-big strategies to prepare you for that next step:

 

1. Have a Growth Strategy: The first thing you should do is compile a list of various ideas for growth that make sense for your business:

 

    • Spend more money on marketing, or
    • Open another location, or
    • Create an additional profit center

 

There is no shortage of ideas and strategies to help grow your business. Indeed, here on the Bank of America Small Business Community, you can find scores of articles on the subject. The important thing is to come up with and commit to a few strategies that make sense for your business.

 

2. Create a Team That Is Bigger Than You: Running the show solo is one of the most common mistakes among small business owners, even if it is very popular these days. 

 

Doing it all yourself is not wise – you need your support system. If growth is your game, then teamwork must be your name. To grow your business, it is essential that you pull together a team – employees, contractors, consultants, a board of advisers, partners, investors, etc. People invested in your dream and strategy.

 

SIX TIPS TO GAIN NEW CUSTOMERS

 

This is how bigger businesses are run – with a division of labor. With more people, you have a system for instant feedback and a diverse array of opinions, which are both crucial for growth. In addition, having more assistance, more contacts, and more expertise, will only help you to accomplish more than you could by yourself.

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3. Be Unique: To grow your business, you should be thinking practically and strategically. However, you should also be brainstorming to find that one thing – the X factor – that makes your business stand out from the crowd. Think about businesses you like and patronize. Isn’t it true they do something unique, different, special and better?

 

It’s because they have an X factor.

 

So that is the question you must answer: What is it that you offer that is different and better? Amazon sells more things, cheaper. Starbucks has better coffee served in a hipper atmosphere. You need to figure out your X factor if you want to go from small to big.

 

4. Plan Big: Planning big is different from thinking big (although thinking big is certainly a part of it). All entrepreneurs think big, but growth companies plan big. McDonald’s was a single Southern California restaurant until Ray Kroc showed up with a plan to franchise it.

 

Each of these four steps is part of the growth process. After you’ve created a great team, decided on your growth strategies, determined your X factor, and planned your world dominance, you will be ready to go from small to big.

 

About Steve Strauss

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

What if Amazon still only sold books? What if Starbucks still only sold coffee? What if McDonald’s only sold hamburgers? Would they be Amazon and Starbucks and McDonald’s? Would you have ever even heard of them?

 

So why are you still only selling the same few products or services?

 

What Amazon, Starbucks, McDonalds and countless other great businesses – big and small – learned is that one key to continued growth is creating new streams of revenue - multiple profit centers.

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Look, I get it, being self-employed can be laborious. Even after things are finally off the ground and have become a reality, there is always more work to be done. In particular, one of those ongoing challenges is figuring out how to create a regular, steady stream of income. Some days this feels effortless, while others, it does not.

 

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

 

If you’ve been in it for a while, then you have most likely figured out a few solid strategies that work for your business. You have created a recipe for success. Like a chef or a baker, your recipes can be used time and time again to create the same financial result. This is how you make your dough (groan, I know!). Your recipes could be anything - Twitter ads, monthly sales, an e-newsletter promotion, and so on.

 

However, the recipe method can backfire. A lot of small businesses make the mistake of figuring out one good recipe, sticking to it, and never figuring out a “plan B” once they’ve milked Plan A dry. Having only one moneymaking formula is a problem in that the cycle of business is inherently fluctuating; just because you have something that works now doesn’t mean it will work six months from now. Tastes changes, things get stale.

 

That’s why, in order to guarantee a steady income stream, you need to be like Amazon and Starbucks and create several moneymaking strategies – or “multiple profit centers” as Barbara Winter refers to it in her great book Making a Living Without a Job.

 

Let’s drill down into the Starbucks example. The Seattle behemoth creates many multiple profit centers, typically by introducing new products and with seasonal marketing. In the summer, Starbucks tends to market the heck out of its cold beverages, whereas in the fall and winter, an array of seasonal hot lattes are introduced.

 

Related article: The 7 Budgeting Tips You Need to Consider

 

It’s like being an investor - you need to diversify your portfolio.

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And what about Amazon? Amazon started out as a home-based business that only sold books, but eventually, Jeff Bezos realized that the company would make a whole lot more money if they offered a diverse array of products. He created multiple profit centers. Now they sell everything.

 

Amazon and Starbucks are two of the most successful businesses around. Both prioritize the need for multiple profit centers and both businesses did this early. Because they did this early, they ensured a solid, consistent flow of cash and made the right impression on customers. The earlier you can diversify your business, the better.

 

There are endless ways to add multiple profit centers to your business, whether you’re a lawyer, artist, contractor or restaurant owner. Look to see what the competition does, get creative with your own ideas, and before long, you too can be sipping a full-cafe revenue latte.

 

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

My dad owned two businesses. His first was a single store that he and his partner grew to be one of the largest chains in California. The second, later in his life, was a carpet warehouse. While dad liked that second business, it was never nearly as successful as the first one.

 

Why is that? The main reason was because he didn’t have a partner involved in his second business. There was a certain energy that surrounded them and that business. While dad didn’t always love having to account for his partner, he sure did have fun and make a lot of money. As partners, they complemented each other so well that their venture couldn’t help but reflect their synergy (even if sharing the sandbox was not always easy).

Steve Strauss Headshot.png

 

As an entrepreneur, it’s natural to want to do much of everything ourselves; that is in our nature. Your business is your passion and your brainchild, so it makes sense that you may think that you are the one best suited to actualize your vision – and my Dad oftentimes thought that. It certainly feels unnatural for many small business owners to relinquish control.

 

Unfortunately, you probably need to.

 

Not even the best entrepreneur can do it all on their own. Ben has Jerry, Bill Gates had Paul Allen, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, my dad had his partner Phil – you get the point. The numbers don’t lie: according to SCORE, the best startups are approximately 59% more likely to have more than one founder than less successful startups.

 

There are many reasons for this:

  • It saves money. A partner can be an investor in your business and someone with whom to share financial responsibilities
  • You will have someone to bounce ideas off of. Two heads are better than one
  • Better delegation = less to do = more free time = more energy
  • Networking opportunities. Bringing in a partner will instantly increase your list of contacts and clients

 

Related article: The 6 Essential Teammates Your Small Business Must Have

 

Pretty convincing, right? Once you have accepted that you just may, in fact, need a business partner, the question then becomes: how do you go about finding the right one? Here are five things to keep in mind:

 

1. Start with your strengths and weaknesses: By knowing yourself, you will know what your business needs in order to thrive. Look for a business partner with a different skillset than your own. It’s sort of like the Yin/Yang symbol – combined they make a whole. That is what you want.

 

If you tend to procrastinate and forget deadlines, you may want a partner that’s good with time management and organization. If you are not really a people person, find someone who is. By balancing your weaknesses with another person’s strengths, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.

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2. Look for someone who shares your values: Even though you certainly need somebody with a different skillset, you still need to make sure that you both share the same values and have the same vision for the business.

 

3. Take your time: Don’t rush into a partnership hastily as the stakes are very high. You need time to evaluate your potential partner – is he or she trustworthy? Are they good at listening? Do they need constant direction, or are they good at acting independently?

 

One tip is to try working on a few projects with them before jumping into a full partnership to test the waters and see how it goes. You can think of this as dating before getting married.

 

Related article: 5 Steps to Finding a Business Mentor

 

4. Choose carefully: A partnership is like a marriage. You will be spending a lot of time together and sharing decisions. Similarly, each partner can make financial decisions for the union that both are responsible for. So, take your time and remember that half of all marriages end in divorce. Choose wisely.

 

5. Put it in writing: No matter how much you trust this person, putting as much in writing as possible should always be the cardinal rule. Your contract should specify who will be doing what, how much money is involved, and the conditions for backing out if things go wrong.

 

I want to quote the movie Jerry Maguire here. “You complete me.” Almost, but not quite; a little maudlin. Instead let’s say that a good partner should help you grow the business such that you will both be able to say, “show me the money!”

 

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

Last year I wrote a USA TODAY column outlining that my No. 1 small business trend was the rise of “the gig economy.” The gig economy refers to the rising number of employees who make a chunk of their income via various independent contracting and freelance work, or “gigs” (such as driving for Uber, delivering for Postmates, selling on EBay, or writing freelance content.)

 

Because the lines have become so blurry, it is fairly difficult to measure just how big the gig economy is (the Department of Labor is working on an official number). However, Intuit estimated that in 2015 there were about 3.2 million people regularly working in the gig economy, and that by the year 2020, that number will double.

 

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So what explains this labor trend, and what does it mean for your small business? There are two driving factors.

 

The first stems from what I call the Not-So-Great Recession. Once the recession hit, a lot of businesses – large and small alike – came to the conclusion that they could avoid the expensive requirements that come with hiring full-time employees such as, benefits, payroll taxes, worker’s comp – you know the drill. As a result, we are seeing a dramatic spike in the number of part-time employees and freelance workers (in fact, a whopping 79% of gig workers work other part-time jobs).

 

The second factor is that the digital age has made creating a side-gig very easy. There are tons of user-friendly websites and apps that provide ready-made platforms for these gigs, sites like UpWork and Freelancer. And, given the fact that nobody can make a living with part-time wages, it naturally follows that a lot of those part-time workers are doing whatever they can to grow their income. This is not a huge challenge with additional sites and options like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, Airbnb, and Craigslist available.

 

Related article: A Guide to the Gig Economy

 

As a small business owner, you might be wondering what the gig economy trend means for your employees and for your business. Maybe you’re concerned that if you have an employee who works one or two or three other side gigs, they’ll show up to work distracted, tired, and stressed. These concerns are not unfounded, but don’t jump the gun and enforce any strict rules on your employees just yet. First, consider these four reasons why an employee may join the gig economy:

 

1. First, many employees feel underpaid or underworked, and that is part of the reason they are driven to create a side gig. If it is absolutely critical to you that your employee is focused solely on your business, you might need to seriously think about either giving them a raise, more hours, or more interesting work. You have to decide what is more important to your business: Saving that extra buck or having an employee who’s all in.

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2. The gig economy is entrepreneurial. As any entrepreneur knows, taking control of one’s income and free time is very empowering and morale-boosting. You might find that your employee is actually more focused and present while at work because of it.

 

3. What used to make sense might not make sense anymore. That is, accepting this labor transformation is probably the way to go. As a business owner, you know how to adapt and expect change. It will behoove you to be flexible, thoughtful, and open to this shift.

 

4. Understand that the gig economy is happening everywhere. If you think this is just a local fad that will die out soon, you’re wrong. In fact, half of the U.K.’s workforce is expected to join the gig economy in the next five years.  Furthermore, the E.U. experienced a 45% increase in the number of independent workers between the years 2012 and 2013 alone. This is a global trend to boot, and it is only expected to grow.

 

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

 

As a leader amidst all this development, it is always wise to assess where your business can accept change and where things need to remain the same. The growth of the gig economy appears to be inevitable, so it might be best to place this one in the former category. If you can accept it, work around it and encourage honesty among your employees, it might not be so bad.

 

It could even be great.

                                                              

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

Change is in the air, is it not? With the weather cooling, plants going dormant, and the presidential campaign over, it’s clear that new seasons are upon us.

 

If we trust the cyclical nature of both weather and democracy, now is the perfect time for us to make some positive changes, especially as we head into the new year. Indeed, polishing our productivity program (if not perfecting it) might be the perfect way to prepare for the new year.

Here then are six effective, simple productivity hacks that can make a big difference next year:

 

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1. Make your bed in the morning: I know that might sound silly, especially to start such a list, but according to both Business Insider and Psychology Today, the simple task of making your bed in the morning can do a lot of good for your productivity.

 

As it turns out, starting your day by immediately checking something off your to-do list gives you a baseline level of momentum that can snowball throughout the rest of your day. Typically, that domino effect does not start until after you arrive at work, and even then, maybe not until you’ve had a cup of coffee or two.

 

Extra bonus – your bed is made!

 

2. Get the easy tasks done first: Along the same lines, productivity experts suggest that tackling small tasks first thing in the day – things like paperwork and email – makes you more effective because they have a much more finite and predictable timespan than working on a big, important presentation or writing up a proposal.

 

Of course it is great to be enthusiastic about your challenging assignments, but doing the busy work first will ultimately free up the rest of your day for you to work on the more important things, and that is also better to do once you are revved up and in a rhythm.

 

3. Avoid the perfection trap: Yes, of course you want to do a great job, and you should, but just remember that sometimes it behooves you to just get stuff done instead of getting stuff done perfectly.  This is especially true when that extra time and effort won’t make a big difference.

 

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

 

4. Turn off phone notifications: It’s a good idea for many reasons to power down and put away your mobile devices altogether every now and then. That said, it’s not always possible, and in that case, it can be just as effective to simply go to your settings and turn off notifications for the things that distract the most, such as email, texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

 

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Forgetting about your phone for a while is one of the very best things you can do to save time and boost your productivity.

 

5. Take breaks: Your brain is an organ that needs rest, just as much as your heart does after a workout. If we never refill our tanks, we will inevitably run out of gas. So go ahead, break up your day and spend some time refreshing yourself in whatever way works best for you. Self-care is just as important as hard work, especially with winter on the horizon.

 

And yes, the new trend towards mindfulness is hot for a reason – because it works.

 

6. Exercise: As you likely know, the body and the mind have a direct, symbiotic relationship; you will notice an instant difference in your clarity of mind, memory, energy level and productivity if you make fitness a part of your routine. Making a concerted effort to exercise is a defining feature of some of the most successful people, such as Richard Branson, President Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Cuban.

 

So go ahead, make some of these easy changes and I guarantee your 2017 will be more productive. 

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

 

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

On occasion, I feel it’s necessary to stoke the ‘ol entrepreneurial fires. How best to do that? For me, sometimes there is nothing better than a good quote – knowing that others have faced the same dilemma, and seeing their insights, can be just the boost one needs.

 

Here are a few great quotes that should inspire any entrepreneur:

 

On success

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”

– Albert Einstein

 

Of course we all want success, and in business, success is often judged by your business’ bottom line. While financial success is certainly one of our big goals as small business owners, we all know that that is just one factor that goes into the success equation. Offering customers quality and satisfaction, creating jobs, having integrity, designing a great place to work are factors that hold a great deal of value.

 

On failure

“Success is waking up from failure to failure with no less of enthusiasm.”

                – Winston Churchill

 

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not know how close to success they were when they gave up.”

                – Thomas Edison

 

Quotes about failure may seem cliché at this point, but they have become cliché for a reason; the fear and feeling of failure is one of the biggest and most universal deterrents that can prevent us from succeeding. We all know things won’t always go according to plan, and there’s

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no doubt you will become frustrated and discouraged along the way. However, persistency, optimism and enthusiasm in the wake of challenges allows us entrepreneurs to turn failure into something positive.

 

Just stick it out a little bit longer – you might be closer than you think!

 

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

 

On perseverance

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

                – Steve Jobs

 

“80% of success is just showing up.”

                - Woody Allen

 

Being in business for yourself requires all sorts of things, two of which apply here. The first is vision. To start a business, you likely saw something others did not – a business where once there was nothing. And to create that business required the second trait, which is perseverance. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you have already shown both of those traits in spades – otherwise you would not be here now.

 

On being bold and taking risks

“In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

                – Mark Zuckerberg

 

My dad always used to say that an entrepreneur was a person who takes a risk with money to make money. Risk is part of this gig.

I have saved my favorite quote for last. This comes from W.H. Murray in his 1951 book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition:

 

Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamed would come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

 

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’”

Be bold my friends. For boldness has genius and magic and power in it.

 

About Steve Strauss

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

I think it should go without saying that good writing is an essential skill for any successful small business owner. Unfortunately, that does not always go without saying. When is the last time you read something poorly written from a fellow small business owner? I bet not long ago, and I bet it was memorable for all of the wrong reasons.

 

No, this does not mean you need to go out and try to be the next Faulkner, but what it does mean is that you should step away from the email you are writing, and don’t press send just yet.

 

There’s an old commercial you may remember – “People judge you by the words you use.” This is true, especially in business. As small business owners, we all know what a huge difference a great first impression can make (or a bad one, for that matter). Especially today, many first impressions happen through the written word: emails, online articles, blogs, social media, brochures, and so on.

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So you have to write it correctly.

 

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

 

We are living in a very relaxed business age (I don’t miss my tie, do you?), but that does not mean that your business writing should be super relaxed. People judge you by the words you use. Here is what I suggest:

 

Aim for clarity: Above all, you need to get your point across – clearly, succinctly, and professionally. That said, there is a lot that can get lost in translation when you are using the written word; after all, you don’t have the advantage of hand gestures, intonation, and inquiry that you get during an actual face-to-face conversation. As such, you have to be extra careful that your writing is communicating your exact thought or idea.

 

Here are some of the top writing faux paus that can make ideas nebulous:

 

  • Run-on sentences. Be mindful of where one thought starts and another ends. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the passion we have for our idea and thereby put it all on paper at once. Make sure your thoughts are organized and separate.
  • Sentence fragments. Every sentence requires a subject and a verb at the very least.
  • Length. Nowadays it’s very easy to lose reader interest. Usually it is better to be short, sweet, and to the point. See? 

 

Aim for professionalism: Improper grammar and spelling mistakes make you appear unintelligent and unprofessional. Period. I think it’s already pretty obvious that you should never spell “you” as “u” or “are” as “r,” but there are definitely some trickier rules that I think would behoove us all to brush up on and watch out for:

  • “its” vs. “it’s”
  • “their” vs. “there” vs. “they’re”
  • “your” vs. “you’re”
  • Confusing the possessive with plural. For example, more than one puppy is NOT spelled puppy’s. The apostrophe makes it possessive – “That is the puppy’s collar”.

 

There are a lot of grammar rules that would take a long time to master, and I don’t think we should worry too much about trying to do so. The important thing is to be mindful of your grammar. The point is to express your ideas clearly and have the person reading them take them seriously. You achieve that with good grammar. Accordingly, my essential rule of writing is this:

 

Writing is re-writing: Is there anything worse than sending off that email with a typo in it? Well, yes there is, but you get my point. The good news about your writing is that you can take the time to have it say exactly what you mean. But that only happens if, well, you take your time.

 

Writing is re-writing.

 

What if re-writing isn’t your thing?

 

Hire a freelancer: If we are talking about bigger projects and writing just isn’t for you, I suggest hiring a freelance writer as needed. There are plenty of fresh college graduate English majors who are knock-your-socks-off good at writing and are chomping at the bit to beef up their resume with professional writing gigs. Not to mention, they are usually very affordable. This can be a solid investment for your company’s success and welfare.

 

P.S. Finally, please note that if we are talking about Twitter, nix everything I just said.

 

About Steve Strauss

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

Not surprisingly, running your own business is fun and exciting. It can also be challenging, petrifying and exhausting. Things can go wrong and will go wrong. So what should you do during these trying times?

 

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the small business world, that saying is especially true. While mistakes happen, you have a far better chance of surviving them if you can try to anticipate challenges and avoid them. From my perspective, here are the top four mistakes small business owners make (and how to avoid them):

 

1. Not sharpening your saw/doing your homework: In the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, there is a particularly impactful fable titled, “Sharpening the Saw” which states:

 

“Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

 

‘What are you doing?’ you ask.

‘Can't you see?’ comes the impatient reply. ‘I’m sawing down this tree.’

‘You look exhausted!’ you exclaim. How long have you been at it?’

‘Over five hours,’ he returns, ‘and I'm beat! This is hard work.’

‘Well, why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?’ you inquire. ‘I'm sure it would go a lot faster.’

‘I don't have time to sharpen the saw,’ the man says emphatically. 'I'm too busy sawing!’”

 

Entrepreneurs have a lot of traits in common, not all of them good. One of the lesser ones is having a bit too much self-confidence and doing things your own way. A better way is to take a step back and sharpen your saw. Learn something new. Do your homework.

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Having the wisdom to lean a little less on that sense of self-trust and a little more on being precise, thoughtful, and humble will take you far. You need more than a great idea to be successful, and you definitely need more than a good idea to take you all the way. If you are exacting, intentional, well-informed, do your homework, and are willing to learn and change, then you should have no problem avoiding this common small business error.

 

2.  Running out of gas/not taking time off: As I’m sure you know, when running your own small business, the stakes are higher, the hours are longer, and the stress much more palpable than when you were an employee.

 

Give yourself a break.

 

I think one of the most important elements that people overlook when fostering a successful small business is that it will be emotionally taxing, mentally exhausting, and physically draining. How do you avoid that? By taking time off, turning off the phone, not responding to emails every night, and remembering to be a good boss – to yourself.

 

3. Not marketing/advertising enough: This is a drum I beat a lot because it’s true. The only way to get new people to learn about your business is by marketing and advertising. The only way to replenish the customers who leave (for whatever reason – they move, find someone cheaper) is through your marketing efforts.

 

4. Not swallowing your pride/asking for the help you need: It’s natural for you to feel protective and possessive of your small business. However, that said, you need to avoid the entrepreneurial tendency to control everything and not let your pride and sense of ownership get in the way of getting the help you need.

 

The fact is, you will not be able to maintain a successful small business for long all by yourself. You need to engage with a team. Listen to your employees, freelancers, customers, investors, partners, and family members.

 

No, things will not always go quite according to plan, but that’s OK. The trick is to avoid the easy mistakes.

 

About Steve Strauss

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

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

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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