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General Business

177 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

If you have been around the Small Business Community for any length of time, you may have noticed that I make it a habit to collect small tips, strategies and hacks.

 

Here are 10 of my favorites for small business owners:

 

1. You need multiple profit centers. This is probably my favorite piece of advice and one I have shared several times over the years, and for good reason. It comes from Barbara Winter in her great book, Making a Living Without a Job.35722669_s.jpg

 

Here’s the hack: Just as Starbucks started out selling only coffee but now also sells food, music, Frappucinos and more, so too should you add additional profit centers to your business. Having multiple profit centers mitigates risk and evens out your business cycle.

Learn more about multiple profit centers: The Magic of Creating Multiple Profit Centers

 

2. Big business wants to help you succeed: This site is a great example. There is a lot of big business assistance out there once you start to look. Large companies spend significant sums of money to create products, tools and services with small businesses in mind; it would behoove you to take advantage of them.

Learn about the Bank of America Supplier Diversity program: BofA's supplier relations: vendor management

 

3. If you want to grow, team up: By the same token, just as there are big businesses who want to help you, there are also other small businesses who can help you. Creating a strategic partnership extends your reach into areas and customers where you typically would not have any. Finding businesses that complement (but do not duplicate) is synergistic, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Consider bartering: Bartering May Ease Cash-Flow Crunch, But Follow These Rules

 

4. There are three types of customers, and to grow, you need to juggle all three:

    • New customers
    • Existing customers
    • Exiting customers

 

Customers leave for all sorts of reasons, both good and bad.. As such, you need to create a constant funnel of new customers who become existing customers, so that they can replace the exiting customers. Cultivate and nourish all three.

Learn more about your customers: Understanding Your Ideal Customer

 

5. Market your business, and then market it some more: How do you find those new customers to replace existing customers? You know the answer. Marketing. Whether it is real world networking or online social networking, marketing your business is the key to keeping the customer pipeline going.

Visit our sales and marketing section to see the best advice on marketing your business

 

6. Be a great boss: The best small businesses – the ones with solid profit, low turnover, good morale, great products and happy customers – are the ones where the owner creates a great culture. Happy employees create happy customers. The key is to be a good boss.

 

And while you are at it, don’t forget to be a good boss to yourself, too.

Follow these tips to be a great boss: Want to be a Great Boss? Develop these Traits

 

7. Play defense: Most entrepreneurs like playing offense – finding customers, selling, being creative, doing that part of your business that you love to do. But great small businesses also know they need to play defense – they incorporate, have adequate insurance, save for a rainy day, etc.

A few more tips to managing your business

8. Understand little changes can create big results: Change can often seem big and difficult. In fact, small changes are the ones that often create big results. Add a new product or service, tweak a marketing campaign, make a great new hire.

Thinking of a little change, look into offering these employee perks: The importance of employee perks and how you can offer more than you think

 

9. Work on your business, not just in it: Michael Gerber’s famous piece of advice from his book The E-Myth remains as true today as when he first wrote it: By stepping back and looking at the big picture you get perspective, insight and you can figure out what changes – little or big – are needed.

Related article: Are you an Optimist or Pessimist? Why Your Perspective Matters

 

10. Say yes: People love small business because we can say yes.

 

      • “Can you stay open a little later so I can get down there?” Yes.
      • “Could you possibly get this to me by tomorrow?” Yes.
      • “Can I have an afternoon off this week?” Yes

 

Yes is one of the things that makes small business special. Use that to your advantage.

Related article: What’s your secret sauce?

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

“…Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

 

- Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

 

While we certainly are not living in the go-go, high-flying, greed-is-good ‘80s any longer, there is still a belief in some quarters that many business people remain quite Gekkoish –selfish,  materialistic and looking out only for themselves.

 

In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth, and I am happy to report that the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR) agrees. Twice a year, my friends at Bank of America survey 1,000 small business owners across the country. The SBOR always contains fascinating insights, and this latest one is no different.

 

What I love about the Fall 2017 SBOR is how it busts several common myths about small businesses and their owners, including the one that business owners are greedy and selfish.

 

For instance, according to the report, 60% of small business owners participate in a big way in charitable giving during the holiday season, including:Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 6.00.07 PM.png

 

  • Giving money to a charity (nearly 50%)
  • Giving employees bonuses (35%)
  • Giving employees holiday gifts (33%)

 

Here’s another busted myth: Or Millennials are the most cynical and jaded of all generations. Maybe not. Guess who the SBOR found to be – by far – the most optimistic of all small business owners? You bet, it’s the Millennials.

 

According to the SBOR, “When looking across generations, millennial small business owners have a significantly more optimistic outlook compared to Gen-Xers, Baby Boomers and senior entrepreneurs.” Here’s an example of just how enthusiastic they are:

 

  • 81% expect to make more money next year, as opposed to 60% of Gen Xers and only 45% of Boomers
  • Almost half of Millennials surveyed expected to hire more employees next year, as opposed to only 25% of Gen Xers and 11% of Boomers

 

Here is another great small business myth busted by the Small Business Owner Report: it turns out that social media is not all that important to the small business bottom line. If you do any reading about small business—in fact, if you are simply alive and part of the Internet culture today—you well know the importance of social media. But consider this amazing statistic from the survey:

 

67% of small business owners said that social media had no effect whatsoever on the bottom line of their business. Not only that, but half of those surveyed said that online ratings had no effect on the success of their business.

 

One last myth buster. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, right? Apparently not, at least not when it comes to running a business. While men in the survey generally were a tad more optimistic than the women, it was practically statistically insignificant. For instance, almost half of men anticipated revenues to increase over the next year. A little more than half of women said the same thing. Similarly, 16% of men said they planned to hire next year while  16% of women said that, too.

 

As I said, the Small Business Owner Report always contains a lot of great information, and this one delivered in spades – busting, as it does, myths about small business owners that deserved to be busted.

 

Read more from small business expert Steve Strauss

Related article: Nine Reasons Why Millennials are Important to your Small Business

Related article: Women small business owners see gender equality in the workplace on the horizon

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Steve Strauss

What We Are Thankful For

Posted by Steve Strauss Nov 24, 2017

With the Thanksgiving holiday wrapping up and the holiday season upon us, I am reminded of the things that small business owners and their employees have to be thankful for this year and every year. In no particular order:

 

Being in business: Needless to say, the economy has been tough the past few years, so it is no small feat that you have stayed in business. There is much honor in the hard work it takes to navigate these uncertain times. Your business pays the bills and feeds the family, and provides people with the goods and services that they need.

 

While there may be a few bumps in the road, I don't know any entrepreneur who would trade her gig in for a different one.  We should be thankful for the opportunity to wake up each day and follow our dreams.

 

Our customers: Customer loyalty is almost an oxymoron these days, so to those customers who stay with us year in and year out, we should give them a big “Thank you!” If not for them, we would not get to live the entrepreneurial dream — in all its pain and glory.


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

 

Our staff: No one can do it all alone. We should be incredibly grateful for our people – those who buy into our plans and help carry them out. Whether it's a part-time virtual assistant or a staff of 50, employees make it all possible. We are thankful that they help us so much and that we can afford to keep them on. I bet most of us wish we could do even more for them.

 

Our family and friends: By the same token, it is practically impossible for an entrepreneur to create and run a business without the love and support of his familNov 27 Pull Quote.pngy and friends. They put up with our long hours and listen to our crazy schemes. Tell them how much you appreciate it. If you’re like me, than the support of family and friends means more than they know.

 

Our partners: Whether it's a supplier who extended terms to make things easier this year, or the banker who said yes, we typically have an extended network of people for whom we are very thankful and lucky to know. They are the folks who help us stay in business, and for that we are grateful.

 

This great country: Yes, the election was grueling, but in the end, once again we had a peaceful and democratic resolution to who gets to wield power. And while there are

plenty of problems we need to solve, is there any other place you would rather live and run a business? Nope, me neither.

 

This is an incredible country, especially for entrepreneurs. I just heard a stat yesterday that said more foreign-born entrepreneurs choose to come to America to start their businesses than any other country. And we all know why:

 

  • We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. That is, we allow people the opportunity to take a chance here, and succeed or fail of their own merits. We not only encourage entrepreneurial risk-taking, we celebrate it.
  • We have a great history of entrepreneurship here. We love entrepreneurs. They are our modern-day rock stars.

 

So we are thankful that the American Dream applies to us all, no matter where we began.

 

Small businesses in this country have much to be grateful for. I know I do. Thank you so much for visiting our site and reading my column. A happy holiday season to you all. You make it possible.

 

What are you thankful for? Please share below.

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Black Friday is almost here, with Cyber Monday right behind. But did you know that the day after Cyber Monday is now called “Giving Tuesday?”

 

It makes sense. After all of that eating and shopping and clicking and buying, Giving Tuesday is a chance to count our blessings and show our appreciation in a meaningful, tangible way to those for whom we are grateful. And there is no doubt that small business people have much to be thankful for. Between great employees, supportive spouses and partners, our beloved customers, a business we (usually) love, and the community that supports us, entrepreneurs and small business people are fortunate indeed.

That is why it is so important to remember the people who make the dream possible. Here are a few ways give back to those who give you so much:

 

Participate in holiday food drives: Down the street from me is a great little restaurant that annually adopts a family in need. They donate the food, and then solicit funds, dry goods, and other needed items from the community to donate on Christmas Eve. It is a fantastic way to both help the community, and engage the community, all at once.49023134_s.jpg

 

Adopt a school: Along the same lines, most public schools are looking for help, whether it be school supplies, library books, or what have you. Your giving could be as simple as donating office supplies or as complex as helping to build a new playground structure. Either way you know that that kind of giving would be much appreciated by the students, the teachers, the community, and yes, your customers.

 

Donate: Pick a local charity and earmark a portion of all sales for that good cause. Or, simply put a donation jar next to the cash register and give the money to the group when the time is right.

 

Give in your customer’s name: Instead of sending out gifts to favorite clients this year, why not take the opportunity to recognize your customers by giving donations in their name to their favorite charity?

 

Shop at Goodshop Give: Goodshop Give is the world’s first-ever “shopfunding” site. First, tell the search engine who you want to support. Then, when you shop at thousands of participating online stores, a percentage of what you spend will be donated to that cause.

 

Sponsor a youth sports team: Undoubtedly, there is some local team in your neighborhood that could use new uniforms or equipment. Giving them some seed money and putting your name on the back of their jerseys is sure to make everybody happy.

 

Volunteer together: Spend some time with your team batting around ideas and come up with a charity for whom you would all like to volunteer. For example, you might want to work together on a Habitat for Humanity house, or maybe you would like to volunteer to feed the homeless during the holidays. There are so many options because there is so much need.

 

Thanking those who are so generous to us is what it’s all about. Happy Holidays!

 

Related Article: Evaluating Charity Requests? Four questions to ask

Related Article: Charitable Giving: How to evaluate and support good causes

Related Page: Support communities globally and locally

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

It’s that time of year boys and girls. Time to make a list and check it twice? Yes, that too, but for the small business owner, more importantly, it is time to gear up in earnest for the holiday selling bonanza.

 

According to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans on spending almost $1,000 on holiday goods this year – for presents, decorations, food and so on. Forty-one percent have already started shopping while the total amount expected to be spent during this holiday season is $678 billion.

 

That said, there will be more competition than ever for those Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping dollars. But don’t fret. Here are a dozen ways to jump to the front of the holiday shopping line:

 

1. Spruce up the stores, physical and virtual alike: With the influx of traffic that will soon be visiting your online and offline stores, it is incumbent upon you to make a great impression. Online, add new content and products. Offline, deep clean, add new displays, and so on.

30864683_s.jpg

 

2. Utilize your e-newsletter: Your opt-in list is amazing because it is a list of people who literally give you permission to market to them, who want to hear from you. The secret is to not abuse that privilege, especially before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The old 80-20 rule comes in handy here: 80% of your content should be things that help your holiday customers and 20% should be your own marketing and advertising.

 

3. Check out retargeting: How many times has this happened to you? You go to a site, check out some shoes (or whatever), and then for the next few weeks, all you see online are ads for those shoes. That is retargeting. It is a simple, affordable advertising cookie. By some estimates, only 2% of website visitors convert on the first visit. Retargeting is an inexpensive way to target that other 98%.

 

4. Have a contest: There will be sales galore in the next few weeks and you should definitely partake (see below), but it would also behoove you to get in the holiday spirit and use your e-newsletter and Facebook page to promote a holiday-themed contest. Have a “guess the weight of the giant pumpkin” contest or maybe a pie eating contest. The winner could get free products, or a donation made to their favorite charity.

 

5. Show your appreciation: Have an invitation-only sale or event for your best customers to say thank you.

 

6. Have a different kind of sale: Everyone will be having Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. You should do something different. How about a Terrific Tuesday sale or a Wacky Wednesday sale? Be different to stand out in a crowded market.

 

7. Create a loss leader: A loss leader is a product you sell at or below cost to attract attention and customers. It gets people in the door. You take a loss on that item but it leads to other sales.

 

8. Sell gift cards: Did you know that gift cards have become the most popular gift in America? The National Retail Federation study indicated that 6 in 10 people would like to receive a gift card as a gift, so you need to sell them online and off. Bonus: Gift cards are great word-of-mouth advertising as it is one customer telling someone else that you have great merchandise.

 

9. Show Amazon who is boss: People shop at Amazon for low prices. But what you can do that the online giant cannot is offer a physical experience. Create a kid space in your store. Serve hot cocoa. Offer parents a free gift-wrapping station.

 

10. Team up: Team up with other local businesses in the area for mutual success. You can cross-promote each other, have a joint event, offer discounts to each other’s business, that sort of thing.

 

11. Give: Donate to a local charity. Give employees time off to volunteer. Earmark a portion of all Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to a good cause. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to let people know what you are doing.

 

12. Schedule time off: Find out when your staff would like some time off – to shop, for family commitments, and so on. Similarly, you should schedule some time off for yourself. Even though this is likely the busy time of year for you, don’t be a turkey – we all need a break, especially during the holidays.

 

Related Article: A Small Business Guide to Thrive – and Survive – the Holiday Season

Related Article: Myths Busted: Content Marketing is Not Optional for Small Businesses

Related Article: The 4 Most Important Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners

Related Article: The Value of Customer Loyalty − Infographic

Related Article: How to Enjoy Vacation and Keep Your Business Humming

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Last night I went out to dinner with my family, and the restaurant we visited was unusually packed. When I asked the waitress what was up, she said that the restaurant was giving out a free dinner to all veterans this month in honor of both their service and the upcoming Veteran’s Day holiday on November 11.

 

We were happy to wait.

 

It reminded me of a great story I heard a few years ago about a sergeant named Robbie Doughty. Doughty was 32 when he lost both legs in a bomb blast in Iraq. USA TODAY did a story about the sergeant and soon after he received a phone call from Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Little Caesars Pizza chain (and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.) Ilitch just wanted to thank Doughty for his service, but the call ended with Ilitch offering Doughty his own Little Caesars Pizza franchise. Today, Doughty is a successful entrepreneur in his hometown in Kentucky.

    

              Related: See how Bank of America shows its support and commitment to veterans and their families

 

It’s not surprising that entrepreneurship resonated with Doughty. Indeed, if you think about it, there are many reasons why veterans make great entrepreneurs, and why almost 10% of all small businesses are veteran-owned:

  • Vets understand the idea of teamwork and uniting behind a bigger mission
  • They not only take direction well, they are also well-versed in leadership
  • Creatively solving the problem is what they do

 

Given this, and the fact there are so many veterans since 9/11, I am happy to report there are a lot of great programs designed to help veterans start and grow their own businesses.

 

88245037_s.jpg

The Small Business Administration: The SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran small business entrepreneur. For example, the SBA has a program called Operation Boots to Business. The program’s goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

Another great SBA program is the Veterans Business Outreach Center. The VBOC is a “one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. Located nationwide, VBOCs provide transition assistance programs such as training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals.”

 

The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers a plethora of programs to help veteran entrepreneurs, everything from starting to financing to growing a business.

 

The National Veteran Owned Business Association: NaVOBA is a private, non-profit association that acts as a gathering place and resource for veteran small business owners.

 

The V-Wise IGNITE Program: IGNITE is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and the SBA. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

The program is open to women veterans, active duty service women, and women military spouses/life-partners interested in small business ownership.  The program features nationally acclaimed speakers, expert instructors, local and military friendly business resource providers, and successful veteran women and military spouse entrepreneurs.

On this Veteran’s Day, it is great to see that “thank you for your service” is not just a phrase, but is being backed up by so many great organizations looking to help veterans transition into small business ownership.

 

       CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

               CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Don’t be a Grinch.

 

About Steve StrausSteve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Today, Oprah Winfrey is worth $3 billion.

 

steven-jobs-9354805-2-402.jpg

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

               CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

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

 

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

 

A little fellow he named Mickey Mouse.

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

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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

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

 

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

 

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

 

           CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

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

 

Free WiFi.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Free delivery.

 

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

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

Guilty as charged!

 

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

 

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

 

          CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

You should.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

And then add that to your lists above.

 

Voila! Productivity.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 8 Productivity Hacks when Working from Home

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

I used to work from home (notice I said, “used to”). As I always say, there is good news and bad news when you work from home.

 

The good news is you see your kids a lot. The bad news is, you see your kids a lot!

 

Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. There are many obvious benefits to working from home: you don’t have to commute anywhere, you can work at your own pace, you can stay in your sweatpants, etc. And if you have kids, oftentimes, being your own boss allows you to create your own hours leaving flexibility to dedicate specific times to pick up your kids from school, attend soccer games etc. However, by the same token, these benefits sometimes make it difficult to maintain high levels of productivity.16752358_s.jpg

 

Indeed, working from home and working in the office both have their own requirements and challenges and it’s important to know the keys to success in either environment. Consider these rituals and see if they don’t increase your work-from-home productivity

 

1. Turn off notifications: Unless your work is heavily reliant on phone calls and mobile usage, you probably do not need to have your phone next to you at all times. And you know it’s true: having your phone alert you with game notifications and news alerts every three minutes only distracts you from your work.

 

Turn your phone on silent, leave it in the other room, and get going.

 

2. Have a separate workspace: Your productivity will decrease dramatically if you’re sitting on your bed, working in front of the TV, or surrounded by lots of commotion. Make sure you have a designated, separate space in your home to work. Having a space free of distractions will help you maintain focus.

 

3. Separate family from work: Along the same lines, working from home is especially unique for those with families. It is important that your partner and your children know there are rules when you are working from home. – For example, institute office hours so you can ensure hours of uninterrupted time.

 

4. Keep things organized: An organized space is an organized mind. Take a couple of minutes to tidy up your work area before sitting down (or at least once a week). This makes a bigger difference than you might think.

 

5. Start with small tasks: Everybody has their own preference, but many people find that starting the workday with smaller tasks helps one to gradually get into a workflow. For me, bigger projects are harder if I haven’t entered that rhythmic workflow quite yet. Things, like responding to emails and tidying up your workspace, are great ways to get the day moving.

 

6. Know your work habits: Similarly, you know your work habits best, so it would behoove you to and pay attention to them. If you know that you like to have a couple of hours in the morning to drink coffee, wake up, and read the news, then don’t try to force yourself to jump into work first thing in the morning.

 

7. Be disciplined: Working for yourself requires a level of self-discipline and planning, and this becomes even more important when you work from home. Make a list of what you want to accomplish for the day and try to stick to it.

 

8. Stay in the chair: There’s always some reason to get up out of your chair. Whether you think you need more coffee, a walk, a snack, etc., the solution is usually quite simple: Stay in the chair. Just keep plugging away. The fridge can wait. A couple of breaks are good and important, sure, but this is an excellent rule that will make you more productive.

 

The good news is that if you stay on target, playing with the kids won’t induce work-related guilt and everyone will be happier – you, your family, and yes, your clients too.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

With fall around the corner, so is school. As a small business, this is a great time to take advantage of this busy time of year.

 

There are plenty of ways you can make this back to school season successful and mutually beneficial – for you and your customers. Here are some ideas:

 

Back to school promotions: With everybody shopping for school supplies, now is a great time to offer discounts, coupons and promotions for popular school items. This is an easy way to attract shoppers, old and new. Even if you are late to the game, that’s OK – there are plenty of last-minute shoppers or those who forgot items who would be relieved to still see deals. 43530272_s.jpg

 

Also, back to school promotions aren’t exclusive to school supplies and computers. Regardless of what you sell, it’s never a bad idea to offer (and advertise) a discount for students, especially during the back-to-school season. It’s a great way of saying good luck with the new year.

 

Bonus tip: You can offer promotional discounts in exchange for customers opting-in to your mailing list. This is a great way to grow your list.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

Be helpful: A lot of parents and students are stressed out this time of year, so this is a good opportunity to put forward your very best customer service skills. Be extra helpful, friendly, accommodating and understanding of everyone, as you never know who could be going through something like this. Offer resources, such as relevant local phone numbers and email addresses, and healthy lunch ideas when possible. Being mindful of the emotions people might be feeling will most certainly pay off

Keep in mind that back to school season is expensive for shoppers so you could throw in a gift card, free meal, etc. as a way of saying thank you.

 

Get involved: Getting involved with a local school is a great way to give back to the community and to market your brand and business. There are many ways you can give back to schools, such as:

 

  • Host fundraisers for school scholarships, extracurricular programs, etc.
  • Donate items for school raffles
  • Host a shopping night with proceeds going to the school

 

RELATED ARTICLE: WHEN IT COMES TO MARKETING—TIMING IS EVERYTHING

 

Ramp up your productivity: Assuming you've had quality relaxation time this summer, back to school season is the perfect time for you and your staff to get back into the swing of things. Start by doing whatever you’ve neglected this summer. Maybe that means working a little later or taking some work home with you in the evenings or on weekends in order to catch-up. Follow the students’ back to school lead and use the back-to-school season to make this fall a productive one.

 

Summer may be ending but as a small business owner, this is an opportune time to ramp up 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.

 

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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

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

 

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

Goldilocks.png

“This porridge is too hot!” she exclaimed.

 

So she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

 

“This porridge is too cold,” she said.

 

So then she tasted the last bowl of porridge.

 

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

 

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

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

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

 

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

 

Let’s review:

 

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

 

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

 

Be careful and scrupulous with this method.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve Strauss

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

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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

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

 

Just slip out the back, Jack

Make a new plan, Stan

Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free!

 

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

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

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

 

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

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

Retirement might seem like a far off notion to you.

 

It shouldn’t be. Your IRA or 401(k) should be your best friend. And, like any friendship, it takes time, commitment, and trust.Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

Now, it may be that you are young and more concerned about funding a college savings plan  for the kids than a retirement plan, or that you have no real plans on retiring, or whatever the case, but the same inspiration that led you to entrepreneurship should also lead you to planning for retirement – no matter what your age or situation.

Think about it: Why did you start your own business? It is likely because you had an idea for a business that took hold that you could not ignore. But equally, it’s very likely that you chose entrepreneurship because you believe in yourself and you wanted to create something of value that would provide long-term security for yourself and your family.

 

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And that’s exactly why you need to think about funding a retirement plan, right now.15491704_s.jpg

 

Consider all of the reasons a retirement plan makes as much sense for you as starting a business did:

 

It provides financial security: Let’s face it, Social Security is neither a viable retirement option for most people nor a lock to be there 10, 15, or 20 years from now. By the same token, the income generated by your business now may not be the same 10, 15, or 20 years from now.

 

You create a hedge against both possibilities by starting to fund a retirement plan right now. It is your security against old age and outside risk.

 

Things change: Maybe right now you have no plans on retiring, or maybe your business income is such that you don’t think you need to worry about retirement income. But if you have been around the small business block a couple of times, you know that one of Buddha’s truths is that everything changes.

 

  • Your business can change
  • You might get sick
  • You might get bored
  • Life happens etc.

 

Whatever the case, the solution is the same: The funding of a retirement plan now puts you in control.

 

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Control: Speaking of control, if you are an entrepreneur then you probably like control. Among other reasons, you likely started a business because you wanted to control your career and the type of work you do. You certainly like having control over your schedule. And if all that is true, then it follows again that creating a retirement plan makes sense because it puts you in control of your finances and your future.

 

Potential age discrimination: If you are a professional, if you sell yourself and your services, one thing you may encounter as you get older – that you may not be aware of now – is age discrimination.

 

Oh sure, if you are a doctor, patients will appreciate your gray hair. But will your employer? Might they want to replace you with a younger, cheaper, healthier version? Or what if you are a self-employed salesperson? At some point customers may think that someone younger “knows the market better,” or whatever.

 

Solution? A funded retirement.

 

Slowing down: The last reason creating a retirement plan now makes sense is you might want to  slow down a bit, but not fully retire.

 

Saving for retirement as soon as possible seems like a simple concept, but many Americans don’t know where to begin. Now that you know why you should start investing in your future, here’s a tip to kick-start your savings.

 

Use the 50/20/30 rule to budget for retirement

 

There is certainly no shortage of ways to spend your way. The first step in prioritizing your retirement is budgeting. If you tell your money where to go, you won’t have to wonder where it went.

 

50 percent of Your Income – Fixed Expenses 

 

These expenses typically don’t vary month to month. For example:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation, etc.

 

20 percent of Your Income – Savings and Retirement

 

Set automatic payments to your savings account each month.

  • Building an emergency fund
  • Paying down credit card debt
  • Retirement – IRA and 401(k)

 

30 percent of Your Income – Personal Lifestyle Expenses

  • Gym memberships

  • Coffee shops

  • Eating out for dinner

 

If you are looking to cut costs, this is the best category to forgo. Try limiting eating out to once or twice a week, going for a run, or bringing coffee from home.

 

Your business savvy is what helped start your business, now apply that same go-getter mentality to your future self. After all, funding a retirement plan now makes a lot of sense.

 

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

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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.

 

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