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222 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

Why did you start your business? neonbrand-JW6r_0CPYec-unsplash (1).jpg

 

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons that someone becomes an entrepreneur: passion, boredom, necessity, inspiration, liberation . . . you name it. But even so, it is also safe to say that there is one reason you did not start a business:

 

A love of budgeting.

 

Indeed, I would venture that creating a budget – or “the B word” as I like to call it – ranks near the bottom of those things that a small business owner has to do (if they do it at all.)

 

And the reason is self-evident. If you are like most small business owners, then you likely think along these lines:

 

  • Budgets constrict
  • Budgets are complicated
  • Budgets are boring

 

But what if I was to tell you making a budget is easy but moreover, that creating a budget is liberating?

 

It’s true.

 

A big problem, of course, is that B word. With so many negative connotations associated with it, no wonder you don’t want to create one. Think of it this way instead:

 

Would you ever get in a car, start it, then put on a blindfold and drive away?

 

Of course not. With a blindfold on, you would never know if you were headed in the right direction. You wouldn’t know if you needed to slow down or speed up. How would you know if you needed to pivot – err – turn in a new direction? And what if a red warning light started flashing? With a blindfold on, you would never know there was danger ahead.

 

A budget is simply the process of taking off the blindfold so you can navigate the entrepreneurial highway clearly.

 

So, instead of calling it a “budget,” try calling it a “plan.” What is your plan for your business? How much money do you have and need to execute on your plan? That is all a budget really is.

 

Would you like to spend more money on Facebook ads this quarter? Great, then do so. All you need do then is look at your plan, decide how much you want to spend and then decide how to pay for them. If that means less entertaining, so be it. You decide what your priorities are. It is your plan after all.

 

How to Make a Budget

 

Here is how you make a financial plan for your business, a.k.a., a budget:

 

Step 1: Go over your expenses for the past three months and categorize them. If you have a tool like QuickBooks, this should be easy, but even if you don’t, it should be fairly painless. How much did you spend on:

 

  • Rent: $
  • Labor: $
  • Taxes: $
  • Inventory: $
  • Marketing and advertising: $
  • Taxes and insurance: $
  • Capital expenditures: $

 

And so on. It’s your business, your plan, so make this list your own.

 

Step 2: Decide if this is the best use of your precious capital. Maybe you want to spend less on marketing next quarter and more for hiring contractors to help carry your load. Great! Start a similar list, add a category called “Independent contractors,” and next to it, add a realistic number. Then you just need to cut back in a few other areas to make the numbers crunch.

 

Voila, you just created a budget.

 

See, that’s wasn’t so tough, was it? Instead of your finances running you, you are running them. You figured out how to get some extra help, and even how to pay for it.

 

And there you have it. You just took the blindfold off and made a budget, oops, I mean a plan.

 

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 Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngcolumn is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

I was a full-time lawyer for over a decade and one thing that always surprised me was how often the people sitting across from me in my office should not have been there; a little legal education would have helped them greatly.

 

There are simple legal tips and business strategies you can undertake to help yourself avoid potential legal trouble. Here are my top legal tips that can make your small business life easier:

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1. Do it yourself: Yes, of course sometimes you need a lawyer – that vendor did you wrong and you need to sue or whatever. But just as often, you don’t. Indeed, there are plenty of times when you can save significant amounts of money by doing it yourself. For basic needs such as forming an LLC or creating a will, do-it-yourself sites like LegalZoom can really help.

 

2. A strongly worded letter can get you far: When someone owes your business money, it is understandable that you may want to sue them. “Suing the guy” can be cathartic. The bad news is that the guy can sue you back. And even if they don’t, lawsuits are usually pernicious and expensive. Often, a strongly worded letter from a lawyer can provide a result that ends up almost as satisfactory, and at a fraction of the cost.

 

3. Don’t settle for the fee quote a lawyer gives you: If you do actually end up needing a lawyer to sue or handle a case, there is a secret that lawyers don’t want you to know. Their fees and costs, although high, are not written in stone. You can often negotiate cheaper prices. They may not reduce their hourly rate, but you can bet that paying 50 cents per photocopy is negotiable.

 

4. Always put it in writing: This is one of those commonsense tips, but it’s amazing how often it is overlooked. To truly protect yourself, always make sure to put things in writing. Memories fade over time, people remember things differently, and people lie. A written record prevents all of that.

 

5. Protect your intellectual property: If you are a creator or inventor (and these days, many of us are creating content online), it is vital that you protect your copyrights, patents, or trademarks. Patents typically require professional legal help, but copyrights and trademarks can be registered and handled on your own at www.USPTO.gov. (Note: One good thing to know about copyrights is that they need not even be registered with the USPTO to be legal; They are created as a matter of law at the moment of creation. This sentence is being copyrighted as I write it!)

 

6. Stop creditor harassment: If bill collectors are harassing you, you can invoke the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to stop the phone calls. If you say or write something along the lines of, “Pursuant to the FDCPA, you are to never call me about this debt again,” they must stop calling. Two things of special note:

 

  • First, this statement has to be made to 3rd party bill collector and not the original creditor
  • Second, once the bill collector has been given notice, while they must stop calling, they still have other remedies available, such as lawsuits

 

Read next: Why you got declined for business credit (and what you can do about it)

 

7. No contract? Maybe no problem: This is a lesser-known fact – sometimes you can enforce someone’s promise to you, even if you do not have a contract. It’s called “promissory estoppel” and happens when you rely, to your detriment, on someone’s promise. Example: Let’s say a contractor asks you, a subcontractor, for a bid on a project and you give a very low bid for whatever reason, maybe you really want the gig or whatever. The contractor then gets the project and wants you to perform, but you realize that your bid was far too low. Too bad. Even though there is no formal contract, you still may be forced to live up to the low bid because the contractor relied to his or her detriment on your promise.

 

8. Know when to admit blame: When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and when that’s the case, your best bet is to lick your wounds, call it a day, and call it off. Fighting will only cost you time and money. Settling may be the best, most affordable, legal advice you can receive.

 

 

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 Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngcolumn 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

Right out of law school, I got a great job in a big law firm handling insurance defense. Being young and arrogant, I used to say that my job was to “deny claims.”matthew-waring-MJAoiige14E-unsplash.jpg

 

Now, years later, that embarrasses me.

 

Denying claims was not my job and not what I was expected to do. I was

expected to read the file and figure out whether the claim was legitimate and whether the company had reasonable grounds to deny the claim.

 

Here is what I know now: By the time a business insurance claim gets to the point that it is being litigated over, you are in trouble. Either the business bought the wrong insurance and filed a claim that wasn’t covered, or it filed a frivolous claim, or it didn’t have enough coverage, or something else went wrong.

 

Here is what else I know: Insurance companies do NOT want to deny claims. They are in the business of covering risk and accidents and expect to pay legitimate claims; that is what they do and that is what keeps them in business.

 

So, what you need is to have a “legitimate claim.” Let’s look at how that works:

 

Let’s say your business was injured or damaged in some way. The first thing you need of course is a policy. But not just any policy, you will need a policy that covers – and doesn’t exclude – the type of damage you have. (More on that exclusion word in a sec.)

 

Small business can get all sorts of different types of coverage, for example:

 

  • Liability: Comprehensive General Liability (CGL) is a type of catch-all policy. It is “a standard insurance policy issued to business organizations to protect them against liability claims for bodily injury and property damage arising out of premises, operations, products, and operations.”
  • Commercial auto
  • E&O: Errors and Omissions insurance is for professionals and service businesses for claims arising out of allegations of sub-standard work, i.e., negligence and professional malpractice
  • Property: Protects business property and assets
  • Business interruption insurance: If a disaster or catastrophic event does occur, your operations and income may be interrupted. This covers that.

 

The first thing is to buy the insurance that provides the widest net for the types of foreseeable risks that your business may encounter.

 

As for exclusions, almost every policy will exclude certain risks/coverage. It is akin to a health insurance policy that excludes certain types of drugs, surgeries, etc. Make sure the exclusions in your business policy do not prevent the type of claim you may have.

 

Next, consider the amount of coverage. The amount and types of things covered are often constrained by what you can afford. Of course, you can’t insure against everything but the risk is not buying enough insurance. If you buy some cheapo policy that limits coverage of a claim to $10,000 and your damage is $100,000, you are out of luck.

 

Best practice: Buy as much insurance as you can afford.

 

Finally, consider the deductible: One common way to reduce costs is to have a high deductible. Smart, until you need to file a claim.

 

This is how it is supposed to work: You buy some insurance. Something happens that damages your business. You file a legitimate, covered claim. Your insurance reviews it and pays you the amount of your damage, less the deductible.

 

As you may gather, a lot can go wrong in that process. It could be that your deductible is too high, or your coverage is too low, or your type of claim is excluded, or that you may have waited too long (the statute of limitations has run).

 

There are two additional things you can do to protect yourself:

 

  1. At the start, before you buy, meet with an insurance broker. As opposed to an agent, who only represents one company, a broker can steer you to the right company and the right type of coverage.
  2. If your claim is denied, hire a lawyer. Period.

 

And hopefully, your attorney will understand insurance better than I did when I began those many years ago.

 

 

 

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  Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngcolumn 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

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

 

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

10 million people. 35,000 different events. More than 165 countries. 1 week.

 

person-tossing-globe-1275393.jpg

Yes, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is coming to a city near you the week of November 18 and there is a ton of information and events to help you grow your business.

 

We are living in an amazing moment in which the world is changing before our very eyes. Countries and leaders rise and fall. Whole continents are melting, oceans rising, and coasts receding. Yesterday’s third- world economies become today’s global economic powers. It is a time of tremendous, momentous, global, transformational change.

 

We also live in a time of tremendous opportunity: Modern medicine and travel are a marvel. The Internet has allowed us to learn almost anything and connect with almost anyone, anywhere. Many people the world over are living longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

 

And that is what Global Entrepreneurship Week is all about.  According to the GEW website,

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

 

During one week each November, GEW inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities designed to help them take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey.

These activities, from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings, connect participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors — introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

 

So, how can you get involved, learn more, or give something back? There are four ways:

 

1. Register: Go to the Global Entrepreneurship Network and create a profile. “The more information you provide, the more you will be able to engage with the community and stay up-to-date on the GEW activities happening simultaneously around the world.”

 

2. Organize an event or activity: By organizing an event, you can inspire your local entrepreneurial community while also connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and possible investors. You would also be strengthening your local startup ecosystem while being part of a global movement.

 

       What sort of event could you host? Almost anything:

    • Create a pitch competition
    • Have an entrepreneurship film festival
    • Organize a hack-a-thon
    • Create a speaker series
    • Have a policy roundtable
    • Offer a workshop

 

3. Find an event or activity: Thousands of events, activities, and competitions will be taking place during Global Entrepreneurship Week. Look for the ‘Find an Event’ button on the gew.co homepage.

 

4. Connect: In addition to connecting face-to-face during GEW events and activities, you can also connect using the GEW social media channels:

 

 

Go ahead and jump in, have some fun, get inspired, meet a new friend, and grow your business. And who knows, you just might change the world.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

So just what is a man who was the captain of an Indian naval warship of 85 men and officers, doing running a women’s healthcare company in Boston

Changing the world, and changing his world, that’s what.Prakash.jpg

I’m not sure which part of his story is more interesting –

 

  • That Prakash Veenam went to India’s equivalent of West Point
  • Or that he captained that naval warship
  • Or that he left his military career to move to America to start over as an entrepreneur by getting his MBA (at the prestigious Babson College)
  • Or that, one year out of school, he was chosen to become the CEO of a high-tech Boston-based women’s healthcare product business

 

The fact is, it’s all damn interesting.

 

To start, let’s dip into the company he leads.

 

Maternova was founded in 2009 by two women and it does two things exceptionally well.

 

  • It manufactures and sells an array of innovative women’s health and medical products, like a combined Hep B and C and HIV tester, or an armband that detects childhood pneumonia.
  • It consults with medical caregivers around the world, like midwives in South America and Africa, on health and product issues.

 

So just how did Mr. Veenam end up as the CEO of this fascinating company, especially when his background did not lend itself to women’s health issues?

 

Upon concluding his naval career, Prakash decided he wanted to become an entrepreneur. This makes a whole lot of sense of course. Veterans are known to be excellent entrepreneurs as they have a certain set of skills that dovetail nicely with business life – they can create a plan and follow it, they know how to build and lead a team, they know how to analyze and accomplish projects and missions, and so forth.

 

While he was at Babson as a business development “fellow,” the founders of Maternova were hunting for a CEO. This makes a lot of sense because  often the skills a founder has that are well suited to starting a company are not the same as those needed to run a growing business.

 

A CEO with that second set of skills if often sought out and hired.

 

The two Maternova founders went to Babson, first looking for someone to help them with some special projects. Babson specifically sought out Prakash, as they thought his background gave him the leadership skills needed for the assignment.

 

The two Maternova founders agreed and after only a few months doing the special projects assignments, he was asked to interview for the job of CEO. The founders loved him, loved his naval background, loved his management style, and loved working with him.

 

He has been the CEO for over a year now. As he told me, “Although Maternova is not a startup, it is like a startup. It is an innovative, forward-looking company. And it is a very good fit.”

 

Prakash explained to me that his naval background made him uniquely prepared for this job. “As with a business, when I was out at sea, I needed to plan, yes, but I also needed to be creative and have a willingness to think on my feet, and pivot to solve problems. I also had to learn how to give orders, get people to carry out those orders, and work as a team.”

 

Sounds like business to me.

 

 

As for what’s next, he points to his vision for his company. “We are looking to grow, to find investors, and great partners, and to create new products.” Indeed, they now have 60 products in the pipeline.

 

“It’s all part of the challenge that is entrepreneurship,” Prakash says.

 

Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

What with their ability to follow a mission, their commitment to teamwork, and mastery of follow-through, veterans make great entrepreneurs. Here then are some of the best small business resources available to them:

 

Bank of America:

Bank of America has special benefits for U.S. veterans, including new discounts on select loan products.  To learn more, visit us online or reach out to a Small Business Specialist.

 

SBA Veteran Programs:

Not surprisingly, that best friend to small business, the Small Business Administration, has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. For example, Operation Boots to Business is a program for military service personnel transitioning to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration:

Similarly, the VA has a great small business resource center, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. Offering help for everything from starting, to financing, to growing a business, this is a great place for the fresh and seasoned veteran entrepreneur alike.

 

Veteran Entrepreneurship Courses:

According to Bunker in a Box CEO Todd Conner, “Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.” Using videos, online tutorials, and articles, veterans can embark on 14 “missions” that teach entrepreneurship. Along the same lines, but in person, Patriot Boot Camp offers entrepreneurship training programs in various cities nationwide.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

black-cat-bloom-blooming-1548605 (1).jpg

Halloween was the best when I was a kid.

 

Tricking, treating, running, laughing and eating our way into sugar oblivion, we roamed the neighborhood in search of, if not the next big thing, then at least the next big candy haul.

 

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Halloween today is different, and not just for the kids - especially not just for the kids. Maybe you have noticed that these days it is the adults who tend to run wild on Halloween. According to the National Retail Federation:

 

  • Since 2009, spending on Halloween by adults has more than doubled – from a little over $4 billion to now almost $9 billion a year
  • 47% of all adults said they expected to dress in costume this year
  • 29 million people plan to dress their pets in costume for Halloween

 

As a small business, you may be tempted to avoid the Halloween boo-ha-habut let me suggest that embracing the spirit of the holiday is – if not more fruitful – then at least very sweet (and if you think I am out of Halloween puns, you are sadly mistaken!)

 

Here’s how:

 

Make your store and neighborhood super kid awesome. Given that trick-or-treating is now often done in more controlled environments with lots of supervision, it has become an opportunity for the smart small business owner.

 

Look to team up with nearby businesses and with your neighborhood association to make your business/office building/block/area a Halloween destination for kids and parents.

 

  • Decorate the store: Outfitting the shop in a Halloween motif is an easy win. Add orange and black to the windows, put pumpkins on the stoop, and even consider playing some “spooky” music in the days and weeks around the holiday. Halloween decorations are fun for everyone – customers, passers-by, employees, and ghosts and goblins of all ages.

 

  • Prepare the neighborhood: While you are at it, look to add some street decorations and be sure your business neighbors are ready with candy for the kids and coffee and other treats for the adults.

 

After that, make sure to advertise that your area will be a fun Halloween destination leading up to and on Halloween.

 

Then, rather than being a “ghost” town on Halloween, yours will be super-ghoul.

 

Get Even Spookier

 

Here are a few additional ideas:

 

  • Have a pumpkin carving contest, with the winner getting a store discount.

 

  • Welcome costumes: A costume contest – or even just allowing your staff to dress up in their costumes during Halloween week – is not only fun, it is also a social media winner. Posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook of the different costumes in your shop (and of the pumpkin contest!) will generate some social media love.

 

  • Party on: Everybody has a holiday party, but you can be different – and just maybe better – by hosting a Halloween party. Given that folks without kids are often looking for something to do on Halloween, making your business a destination that night will allow folks to eat, drink and be scary.

 

  • Offer Halloween deals: Finally, remember that people always love a good deal. If Halloween is your excuse, it’s not a bad one. By offering a sale on something tangentially related to the holiday, you can gain some holiday traction.

 

Go ahead, jump in. Halloween is all the rage. Doing so will allow you to creep it real!

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Entrepreneurs are smart, savvy people. Hard working, industrious, creative, and the kind of crew who would take a financial windfall (like the one we are offering you below) and make it work for them, unlike, let’s say, some numbskull lottery winners….

 

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  • In the mid-80’s Evelyn Adams won the lottery not just once, but twice. So, did she invest her $5.4 million in real estate or buy a business? Did she save it? No and no. Ms. Adams hightailed it to Atlantic City and promptly gambled it all away. Today she lives in a trailer park.

 

  • Denise Rossi won the $1.3 million California Lotto and promptly filed for divorce . . . except she never disclosed the lottery winnings in the divorce proceedings. Two years later, divorce completed, her husband learned the truth and sued. The judge awarded him every single penny of the payout.

 

Like I said, entrepreneurs are different, and that is why I am excited to let you know about an amazing opportunity for the chance to win $25,000 for your small business.

 

Mastercard, in association with Bank of America, is running  the third annual Grow Your Biz Contest.* One lucky winner will get $25,000 to do just that – grow their business. This really is a great opportunity.

 

Here’s how to enter:

 

1. Create and upload a video (up to 1-minute long) that answers this question: How would $25,000 help your business grow?

 

2. Pitch: Four Finalists will be invited to New York City on 11/14/19 to make their pitch to the judges. The four finalists each will receive a $1,000 Mastercard Prepaid® card, professional consultation with the Grow Your Biz Panel, and a trip to the live pitch event in New York City on 11/14/19.

 

3. Win: The Grow Your Biz Panel will select one winner, who will receive the $25,000.

 

You can enter here, but remember, the deadline is October 6.

 

So, I will ask the question again, what would you do with an extra $25,000?

 

Let’s think about that for a moment. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay this back. And unlike income from the sale of goods, you don’t have to do work to receive it. This is money, and as such, I would suggest it be maximized.

 

What about using it on marketing for example? You could launch a very robust Facebook or Google ad campaign. And the great thing about marketing is that it is the type of investment that tends to pay off long after the actual promotion is over.

 

Or what about opening a new location? Yes, that may be a bit of a challenge on $25K, but then again, you are an entrepreneur. You eat challenges for breakfast. And the great thing about opening another location is that you are creating an additional profit center; something that can pay dividends for years to come.

 

Or what about implementing a new product or service?

 

If you are sensing a pattern to my suggestions, you are right. The chance to receive an unencumbered $25,000 is a rare thing. The savvy entrepreneur would use that windfall to create a long-term investment in the business that will multiply and pay off for years to come.

 

And anyway, it sure beats betting it all on red.

 

Are You a Small Business Owner Interested in Winning $25,000?*

 

Entrepreneurs will receive the chance to win $25,000 when they Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How would $25,000 help your business grow?” by submitting a video up to 1-minute long online . Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/14/19 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

*No Purchase Necessary to Enter or Win. Void where prohibited. Open only to small business owners who are legal U.S. residents, and 18 and older. Ends 10/6/19. Restrictions apply.https://growyourbizcontest.com/?utm_source=article&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=art_boa-SSClick here for Official Rules and complete details.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

My dad thought he had a foolproof plan for success. In his will, he divided his carpet warehouse five ways: one share each for each of his four kids and a fifth for his store manager who would run it until one or all of us were ready to take over.

 

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My sweet dad died young and unexpectedly and clearly he never anticipated what a headache his plan would become. The manager did not like doing 100% of the work but keeping only 1/5th of the income.

 

Eventually we had to sell out to her.

 

When it comes to retirement, planning ahead should provide peace of mind. But that’s not always true. With so many options, how can you decide what is best for both you, your business, and your family?

 

While planning for your future, here are three of the best options on what you can do with your business when you are ready to retire:

 

1. Sell it

 

There are obviously many advantages to selling your business. First and foremost, putting your business up for sale is a great way to cash-in on the investment you made in building it from the ground up.

 

But it is not as simple as you might think to sell; many small business owners try and fail when they attempt to sell their businesses. In some cases, they overestimate what their business is worth, and in others, they don’t prep the business for sale as they should and it doesn’t generate any interest.

 

As a general rule, a business is worth three to five times profit in any given year.

 

The key then is to treat the business sale as akin to a home sale. Spruce it up. Have it be impressive both physically as well as financially. Get a good broker.

 

Indeed, a good business broker should prove to be invaluable in this process. They will not only help set the right value, but will also have access to potential buyers for their business, and will know the legal ins-and-outs.

 

The Right Way to Prepare Your Small Business for Sale by Rieva Lesonsky

 

2. Give it to someone you love

 

Many people choose this option when it comes to retirement, and for good reason. Not a few entrepreneurs start a business with the idea that they will give it to their kids when the time is right.

 

But there are several challenges with giving it away:

 

      • You will not be able to get your equity out of the business
      • Your kids may not want it
      • Or they may all want it and will squabble over it (See Succession on HBO for worst case scenarios!)

 

The key then is to create a viable succession plan (better than my dad’s for sure.) Talk it out openly with your family. A succession plan lays out who will take over your business, how the transition will be handled, and irons out other details in the process. This can be a helpful way for business owners and their heirs to know the timetable for when their business will be transferred, to who, and how (if any) employees will be affected.

 

The Importance of Succession Planning for Your Businesses

 

3. Simply close the doors

 

In some cases, a business can’t easily be sold or given away. For example, if you are a consultant, you and your personal skills and contacts are essentially the business. There is nothing much to sell. If this is the case for you, then you might want to consider just closing down the business entirely.

 

While there may not be any intellectual property to sell, it is possible that you can sell valuable parts of the business - like machinery, inventory, or even a customer list - and make a small profit before shuttering your doors.

 

This can also sometimes be the best case scenario for small business owners who are ready to hang up their hats as soon as possible.

 

Whatever option you might pick, the key to retirement planning is just that – planning.

 

Podcast: Retirement Tips for Small Business Owners

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Back in the day, I had a client who spent about $25,000 to open an online store only to close it less than a month later.

 

She had access to a large cache of books that she was going to sell (yes, this was long before the complete global dominance of Amazon in books, err, everything) and so she went all-in. Unfortunately, she failed to calculate the cost of shipping heavy books (again, e-commerce was in its infancy). Once she did, making a profit became an impossibility.

 

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All of which is to say, when you sell products, either in your physical store or your e-store, you need to be able to source not only the right products for your brand and business, but also items that allow enough room for markup and profit-taking.

 

Consider: A manufacturer creates the product and sells it to a wholesaler. The wholesaler may distribute the products directly or may sell to distributors. As such, if you purchase your products far down the line, making a profit may be difficult because there have been several layers of profit-taking already.

 

Sourcing the right products

 

So, how do you find the right products? Below are your options, but first, a caveat:

 

There are a lot of scammers in the product sourcing world. There are literally thousands of websites from cheats who claim to be real wholesalers and distributors but are not. You must do your research, find potential suppliers, and then do more research. Make sure they are legitimate, and legitimately rated well. Get references.

 

OK, with that in mind, your sourcing options are:

 

Contact the manufacturer: If you know of products that you like and want to sell, the easiest and smartest way is just to start at the top. Look at the packaging for the product, find the manufacturer, and give them a call. Ask for the sales department.

 

As a small business with small sales, it may not make sense for them to sell to you and in that case, find out who their local distributor is in your area and call them.

 

Trade groups: Trade groups, publications and websites, and especially trade shows are another excellent way to find people manufacturing and distributing products. That you can meet them face to face at a show and make a good impression is all the better.

 

Google: The problem with simply doing a Google search is that you will be overwhelmed with options. But if you have the time and ability to cull through them, then this of course is a fine way to go.

 

LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be an excellent source for sourcing products. Put in the type of product or manufacturer you are looking for and voila! You will get a list of people in your extended network who offer that.

 

Thomas Register: The Thomas Network (website, etc.) is a respected, long-established resource for connecting buyers and suppliers.

 

Amazon: You need to be especially cautious when going this route. There are plenty of unscrupulous sellers on Amazon, so be careful. That said, Amazon also offers everything. One tool that might be especially helpful here is SourceMogul, “the search engine that sources profitable products for you to sell on Amazon.”

 

E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace

 

Etsy Wholesale: Etsy is a global marketplace for creative goods and so Etsy Wholesale might be a good option for you.

 

The Best Platforms to Launch Your E-commerce Side Hustle

 

Alibaba: Alibaba is a Chinese platform that connects Chinese manufacturers and wholesalers with buyers from around the world.

 

 

American-made products

 

If you want to sell only goods manufactured in the U.S., then you have a few options:

 

 

Whatever way you go, remember that the key to making a profit is not in the selling, it is in the buying. Buy the right product for the right price and you are on your way.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

If you travel through airports at all, you really don’t need to be told how great TSA Precheck is.

 

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Either you have enviously seen the empty lanes as you interminably wait in your own long, security line, or you have Precheck and have waltzed through security yourself, wondering why everyone else hasn’t gotten with the (great) program yet.

 

If you’re someone whose small business requires travel for buying trips, trend scouting, trade shows, or just a good old-fashioned client pitch, Precheck could save you valuable time and cut down on travel headaches.

 

How great and popular is Precheck? Check out these stats from the Transportation Security Administration:

 

The average Precheck passenger spends less than five minutes in a security line

More than 7 million people are enrolled in Precheck

Precheck is offered in more than 200 airports and by 67 airlines

 

The Global Entry program is essentially the same thing, but for international travel – an expedited security process for those who pass the required security clearances.

 

How do you get into each, and what are the benefits? Let’s see.

 

TSA Precheck

 

Getting into the Precheck Program is a three-step process:

 

1. Apply online: Precheck costs $85 for a five-year membership. You begin the process by applying online.

 

2. Pass the background check: Needless to say, the point of Precheck is to give preference and advantages to low-risk flyers. As such, you will need to pass a background check that includes an in-person interviewand fingerprinting.

 

3. Get accepted and use your number: Once you pass the background check (between 30 to 60 days), you will be given a “Known Traveler Number.” Then, whenever you make a plane reservation, you enter that number and thereafter will have “TSA Precheck” on your boarding pass, both mobile and printed versions.  Long lines be gone!

 

Here are two Precheck tricks you should know about:

 

1. Some credit card and other travel-related loyalty programs will pay for your Precheck application fee. You can find a list here.

 

2. If you have Precheck and are travelling with someone who is not a part of Precheck, it would behoove you to book them on the same reservation. This usually ensures that they will be given Precheck too on their boarding pass.

 

Global Entry

 

If you do any international travel, Global Entry is definitely something that should be on your radar (excuse the pun).

 

Global Entry provides travelers with the following perks:

 

      • TSA Precheck
      • Expedited customs screening when re-entering U.S. airports
      • Expedited customs screening when traveling by train or sea
      • The ability to use Global Entry kiosks when going through customs

 

The cost for the program is $100 for five years. So, for only an extra $15, you can apply for Global Entry and get all its advantages, as well as TSA Precheck, which is a pretty sweet deal.

 

The application process for Global Entry is equivalent to Precheck: Apply online and then attend an in-person interview at a Global Entry enrollment center.

 

Global Entry and TSA Precheck are altogether a better way to travel. Apply now and before you know it, you will be saving yourself wait times and airport stress, leaving more time to prepare for your business needs.

 

Bon voyage!

 

     Related Links:

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Q: I am trying to grow my business, but with limited results. Expanding is an expensive undertaking, and one that seems unaffordable. The costs for building out a new store, labor, inventory, and other overhead make the risk almost not worth it. Is there an easier or less expensive way to expand my business?

 

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A. There is. Consider: While retail sales only rose by 3.6% from 2016 to 2017, a different sales

sector grew by a whopping 16% that same year.

 

What is that part of the economy?

 

E-commerce.

 

And it’s not just last year. E-commerce sales have shown double digit growth every year for the past decade.

 

Advantages of e-commerce include, but are not limited to:

 

    • The ability to acquire new customers faster, and cheaper
    • Higher average sales than physical retail
    • More average monthly orders
    • Loyal customers

 

Those are some compelling reasons to invest in building out e-commerce as part of your existing business. And let me add one final selling point: The cost of entry is pretty darn low.

 

If you are already on the e-commerce bandwagon, way to go. But if you are like most small business people and are not really engaging in selling your products online in a big way, you are missing out on a great opportunity. This is the easiest, most efficient, and most affordable way to grow your business.

 

So, how do you do it, you ask? There are essentially two ways. First, you can create your own e-store and website, and that is what we will discuss here. The other, to be discussed on a different day, is to sell via online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

 

There are basically three steps to creating your own e-commerce store:

 

1. Decide what you are going to sell.

 

If you already sell some products from your physical store, you are ahead of the game. Figure out which would be best to sell online. Are they unique? Is there a large market? Can you sell them inexpensively? What would it cost to ship? These questions, and more, must be considered when deciding what you are going to sell online.

 

After that, you will need to photograph all of your products so they can be displayed digitally. You will also need to write up attention-grabbing headlines and product descriptions.

 

If you don’t have products to sell yet, you will need to find some. The secret here is deceptively simple. Buy low, sell high.

 

I had a pal once who was a great retailer. He would always tell me, “It’s all in the buying.” Johnny knew that if he was able to buy product at the right price, selling it would be the easy part. Your job is the same: find something people will want to buy online, and then purchase it at the right wholesale price. A simple Google search will help you locate scores of online wholesalers.

 

2. Create your e-commerce store:

 

There are a lot of e-commerce hosting sites out there that offer online merchants everything needed to set up an e-store. (This can either be a standalone site or part of your regular website.)

 

The host will guide you through a point-and-click site creation process that allows you to get selling online. The software helps you upload and display your products, prices, and descriptions using pre-made templates. It will also allow people to buy from you via a shopping cart and checkout system.

 

If you search for “e-commerce hosting” you will find many options. What you want is to find a trusted turn-key e-commerce web-hosting solution. Any good hosting provider should offer inventory control options, live customer support, security, and an easy to use dashboard.

 

Suggested Reading: E-Commerce 101: What You Need to Know About Amazon Marketplace

 

3. Get a merchant solution:

 

You obviously need to be able to take online payments. You can use PayPal, Apple Pay, take credit cards, or find some other online solution.

 

Making the transition from solely brick and mortar to the e-commerce world can feel like a huge step. But with more money to be made while keeping a budget, it begs the question -- what are you waiting for?

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Happily, summer has arrived. While many businesses tend to slow down in the warmer season, summer can be a boon to your business. How? Because the slower season is the perfect time to give your business a mid-year check-up.

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You can wisely use this typically slow time to reflect on 2019 to see what is working, what is not, and then institute some changes to put you ahead when business picks back up.

 

Mid-year reviews help your business stay on track and keep your goals in sight. Whether it be a simple status update or an overhaul of some of your practices, this mid-year review can help you formulate a better plan.

 

There are three steps to the process, and it is deceptively simple. Essentially the mid-year process involves sitting with your team and answering three big questions about your small business:

 

  • What has worked?
  • What has not?
  • Where can we do better?

 

Let’s drill down into each.

 

1. What have we done right and what successes can we acknowledge?

 

Begin with the positive. What were your best successes so far this year and how did you achieve them? Outlining practices that worked, goals that were met, customers satisfied, and money that was made and saved is critical to understanding next steps you might want to take for your business.

 

This part of the review is an opportunity to find the pattern in why things worked well. Which area of your business produced the most profit? What services have been popular? What performed well on social media?

 

In this regard, you might want to employ the 80-20 rule. Which 20 percent of your efforts created 80 percent of your successes? You might want to emphasize those going forward.

 

2. Which failures are obvious and why didn’t you reach some of your goals?

 

This part of the review can be the most painful but is also the mostnecessary. Looking at failures gives you an opportunity to get your business back on track. A mid-year review is an ideal time to take a look at mistakes made in the last six months. What didn’t work well - and why?

 

Dig in. Look at it all: products that fizzled, where your team may have dropped the ball, opportunities missed, dissatisfied customers, marketing mistakes, money lost and squandered.

 

Understanding the why is critical here. Again, we can look to the numbers to help see where our business didn’t excel. Where have you been losing money? What posts didn’t get good engagement? Is your marketing bringing in clients? Having these numbers provides crucial insight into what needs to be changed moving forward.

 

Suggested reading: Use a Small Business Dashboard to Understand your Data

 

List the mistakes, list the root causes, and begin to think about needed pivots to correct the situation.

 

3. What do you want the future to look like for your company? How can you implement some changes?

This is the payoff: A mid-year course correction.

 

Knowing the successes and failures of your business and the numbers that drive those ups and downs should lead you to some conclusions. This final step helps you consciously manifest the future of your company. This is where you outline your vision, and importantly, the steps it will take to get there.

 

Ask yourself: How can we not make the same mistakes again? And how can we double-down on our successes? What has stopped or hindered our progress? And given all of this, should you have some new, updated, concrete goals based on the above? You want to be both big picture and minutiae oriented here. What is the vision, and what are the exact steps needed to implement that vision?

 

Finally, write down and keep your new goals in view at all times - this way, they’ll always be in sight, even when the day to day gets in the way.

 

Related content:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

With new reports coming in regularly about the negative impact humans are having on the environment, there is growing urgency to addresses our impact on the environment, or to join coalitions like the United States Climate Alliance.

 

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As a small business, you can contribute to creating change in a big way.

 

Why? Because, as opposed to governments and large corporations, we have adaptability on our side. Small businesses have the unique ability to pivot and adapt quickly. This, paired with a growing sense of urgency to go green, means your small business can implement little changes that can make a big impact, for the environment andyour wallet.

 

Undertaking a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative like this makes sense for all sorts of reasons. Of course, it is the right thing to do for the environment. And yes, it can save you money. But additionally, it will also make a difference to the people you most depend on – your staff and your customers; they will appreciate your efforts.

 

Here then are 5 easy ways to make your small business greener:

 

1. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: There are several simple ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in the office:

 

      • Reduce water usage with low-flow toilets and faucets
      • Bring reusable cutlery, cups, and plates into the office
      • Opt to buy recycled products like paper and printer cartridges
      • Don’t use single-use plastic bags

 

Not only will doing these sorts of things help the environment and minimize your carbon footprint, but it can also save you money.

 

2. Upgrade the Office: There are several other ways you can reduce your office’s environmental impact:

 

      • Buy Energy Star products. Energy Star certification means that the appliance or product you are buying and using is green, and highly energy efficient. And again, this can save you money.
      • Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs. By simply replacing your standard bulbs with CF bulbs, you can reduce your power usage significantly. Added bonus: The new bulbs also provide better color and flicker less.
      • Install timers on lights. Lights are often left on in offices or other rooms when they are not in use. By installing occupancy sensors, you will be assured that your office energy use will be efficient and not wasteful.

 

3. Go Paperless: To the extent that going paperless is an option, you should definitely consider the benefits. There is an abundance of apps that help us do just about every task virtually. From cloud services to file management systems - even digital scanners! - our paper trail can be significantly reduced with one of the many available apps. Many companies also offer paperless billing, which could be a helpful option for your office.

 

4. Encourage Alternative Transportation: Vehicles are now the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in the U.S., so one easy way to help would be to incentivize your employees to carpool, use public transportation, or bike to work.

 

Carpooled cars, for example, can have access to better parking spots than non-carpooled cars. Or for every day of riding public transport or biking, employees can get entered into a company-wide raffle to win a prize. This not only saves your employees money through lower transportation costs, but also ensures one less car on the road.

 

5. Explore Green Energy Options: It is estimated that at least half of all small businesses are located in areas that offer the option to buy energy from renewable sources like solar and wind. Many local utilities offer customers renewable power from green sources. Often, there are local incentives for using such sustainable energy supplies, as well as federal tax incentives for alternative energy use. Similarly, there are all sorts of tax breaks for investing in green tools like solar panels.

 

With these simple, affordable options, there is no reason to not make your business greener. Employees, customers, and most of all, the planet, will appreciate your efforts.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

These days, small businesses have no lack of data. You can run analytics for how well your Facebook posts are doing, the open rate for your e-newsletter, shopping cart abandons, what time of day products sell best, and a whole lot more.

 

The question is not whether you generate data – you do – but rather, do you have the time or insight as to how to digest these numbers and determine what they mean for your small business goals?

 

That’s where a good dashboard comes in handy. In the parlance of analytics, this is called Business Intelligence, or BI. The good news: Several innovative companies have created a slew of BI tools to analyze and interpret your data.

 

So which dashboards are worth your time and can best help you run your business?

 

Here are some of my favorites:

 

Bank of America® Business Advantage 360: This is a superior financial dashboard from our friends at Bank of America. Business Advantage 360 (BA360) is a digital tool designed to make it easy for small business owners to manage the various financial aspects of their business, especially the all-important cash flow.

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Available to any Bank of America client with a business deposit account, Business Advantage 360 provides a birds-eye view of business cash flow and access to real-time expertise and guidance. With BA360, you can:

 

      • Create and graphically display cash-flow projections
      • Integrate account information to easily keep track of finances
      • Manually adjust projections with additional data like new sales
      • Set up cash flow thresholds and display them graphically and add alerts when adjustments may be needed

 

Here’s a good video that can show you how Business Advantage 360 can help your business.

 

Dasheroo: Dasheroo began as a tool that collected and curated social media data. You could compare your Facebook Likes and Insights, Twitter follows and analytics, Instagram hits and so forth all in one place. Simply set up your customer Dasheroo dashboard, attach your different accounts, and the system would give visually interesting analysis and insight of all of your social media metrics.

 

Now, Dasheroo allows you to corral data from many of your other useful business apps, including:

 

      • MailChimp
      • PayPal
      • YouTube
      • SalesForce
      • Infusionsoft
      • Google Analytics
      • SurveyMonkey
      • QuickBooks®

 

You get the idea. A great analytical tool.

 

Zoho Reports: Most of these dashboards offer the same eye candy functionality. That is, you have access to:

 

      • Beautiful dashboards
      • Drag & drop report creation  
      • Interactivity
      • Customization
      • Visually stunning graphics

 

Zoho offers this as well. By taking the headache out of producing reports, Zoho Reports makes it easy to generate clear, powerful, useful reports based on your data.

 

Board: According to Board, “We feature some of the best data visualization tools available alongside in-depth planning and forecasting functionality, providing users with a consistent, self-service, fully integrated approach to reporting, analysis, simulation, and planning.” With Board you can:

 

      • Plan, monitor and get insight into your sales processes
      • Track, analyze and plan your sales "lead to revenue" process
      • Plan and analyze across the entire supply chain management
      • Streamline workforce planning and get better insights into human resources performance
      • Automate financial planning and analyze business performance down to operations

 

And these are just a start. Check out some of the tools listed here – you, and your business will be better for it.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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Like you, I bet, I learned about the uncertainty that comes with owning a business the hard way.

 

The first time for me was when I opened my first business, a law firm. Starting in March of that year, I hung out a shingle, advertised the heck out of it, and made a profit my very first month. I thought I was some sort of capitalist genius.

 

That belief stuck with me… until November and December of that year, when business completely dried up. I didn’t know people generally don’t like hiring lawyers during the holidays. OK, lesson learned.

 

Fast forward a decade later: I had begun my second business, a better-fitting content creation and writing business. But much to my surprise, an unexpected recession hit, and my business completely dried up a second time.

 

These days, needless to say, potential bumps down the road are alwayson my radar.

 

And I am not alone.

 

Twice a year, our friends at Bank of America issue the Small Business Owner Report (SBOR). Always a fascinating glimpse into the mind and machinations of small business owners, the SBOR this year indicates that not a few small business owners are starting to think about, and plan for, an upcoming downturn in the economy:

 

“Overall, we found that most business owners are preparing whatever the future may hold, creating continuity plans for their business in the case of a disaster and taking steps to prepare for a potential economic downturn.”

 

According to the Report, “Concern over a variety of economic factors has ticked up over the last six months. Health care costs remain the top-ranking issue, with the political environment emerging as a close second.”

 

The good news is that according to the SBOR, confidence among small business owners remains high. For instance

 

  • Almost 60 percent of small business owners surveyed expect their business revenues to increase over the next year (almost exactly the same percentage as last year)
  • Just about a quarter plan on hiring this year (more than last year)
  • Well more than half expect to be able to grow their business over the next five years (slightly down from last year)

 

So, yes, as is their nature, small business people are optimistic. But, that said, they are also prudent, and smart, and as such, are expecting the unexpected.

 

According to the Report, “Business owners recognize the need to prepare for disruptive events such as economic downturns, natural disasters and cyber breaches, [with] a majority [having] continuity and preparedness plans in place…”

 

Specifically,

 

69 percent have taken steps to prepare for a general economic downturn. Steps taken include:

 

  • Established an emergency fund: 37 percent
  • Created an alternative business plan, reducing expenses: 25 percent
  • Opened a line of credit: 19 percent
  • Obtained a second job: 13 percent

 

61 percent have a continuity plan in place in the case of a natural disaster(flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc.) This includes:

 

  • Purchased an insurance policy: 49 percent
  • Backed up files: 40 percent
  • Implemented a communication protocol for employees: 19 percent
  • Made structural updates to building: 14 percent

 

80 percent have plans in place in case of a cyberattack:

 

  • Installed security patches: 47 percent
  • Secured customer data: 44 percent
  • Securely disposed of confidential documents: 42 percent
  • Trained employees on confidentiality protocols: 27 percent
  • Implemented a third-party security management program: 25 percent

 

As they say, what goes up, must come down. But they never said that it has to come down with a thud. What these savvy small business owners (and even your late-to-the-game author) know is that with a little planning, even the most unexpected of changes can yield a soft landing.

 

Start. Planning. Now.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven 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.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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