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General Business

228 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

Yes, we are in seemingly uncharted territory with COVID-19, but the good news is that the operative word here is “seemingly.” While the coronavirus outbreak is a disaster unlike any of us have seen, there have been other unique disasters and we have recovered from them all.

 

man-in-black-holding-phone-618613.jpgBecause the unexpected can in fact be expected, companies and governments have become far better at being able to help in these times. As such, if you need financial help getting through this crisis, here are your resources:

 

The Small Business Administration

By far, your best bet right now is emergency relief from the Small Business Administration. In the first of what is expected to be several relief bills signed into law, the SBA announced a Coronavirus emergency relief fund of $7 billion.

 

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans: According to the SBA, “The SBA will work directly with state Governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and non-profits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.  Click here to apply for a Disaster Loan at SBA.gov/disaster

 

Some states may be eligible for additional funds resulting from natural disasters.  Click here to see what programs are available for your state, and to apply directly for available programs.

 

The 7(a) Loan Program: The SBA’s 7(a) loan is its primary program for assisting small businesses. It offers loans from $25k to $5 million and repayment of up to 25 years (if you utilize an SBA Preferred Lender). Note that Bank of America is a member of the SBA Preferred Lender Program and may provide additional benefits such as fee waivers, discounts for veterans, and 24-hour approvals.


Additional Funding Resources

CDFIs: also known as local loan centers – provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses. Through these innovative partnerships, Bank of America is making more loans available for people and communities, and helping address important economic and social issues.  We created a searchable directory to connect small business owners to more capital. Click here to search the directory to find a CDFI that fits your needs.

 

Kiva: Kiva.org is a unique non-profit. Starting out as a lender making microloans to impoverished people around the globe, it has grown into a crowdfunding platform that has expanded into the U.S. Presently, Kiva is making 0% loans of up to $15,000 to qualified U.S. businesses.

 

Facebook: Facebook just announced that it is making $100 million available in small cash grants to 30,000 eligible businesses.

 

State and Local Resources

Check out these benefits that might be available to residents of specific states, counties, or cities.

 

Check with your city and state to see what may be available in your area.

Advertising and marketing are so much better today than even a decade ago, and woe to the small business that is not taking advantage.digital marketing pic.jpg

 

Example: I know a chiropractor who used to offer free “pain relief seminars.” He would run expensive advertisements on radio, TV, and in the newspaper, get people to the local Holiday Inn to hear his schpiel, and then hopefully convert some into paying clients. The whole thing would run him about $5,000 to host and he might make $10,000.

 

Last month, he did the same thing, but he advertised on Facebook using pay-per-click ads. The entire campaign cost him a tad over $1,000 and he still made more than $10,000.

 

The difference: he now advertises to a specific audience as opposed to a mass market. These days, he only pays for clicks from the people most likely to respond to his ads, as opposed to hundreds of thousands of TV viewers who have zero interest in pain relief.

 

The secret is micro-targeting.

 

On Facebook or Google, and actually, on any other similar digital medium, you can now specifically and narrowly locate, target, and reach people who are most likely to appreciate your ad, click on it, and move into your sales funnel.

 

For small businesses, the days of mass selling to mass audiences are (or should be) over.

 

Back in the day, my chiropractor friend would have no choice but to blanket the market with his ads, hoping that a few of the right people would see, read or hear it. Now, he advertises only on Facebook with an ad seen only by people in his zip code, who were upper income, who were older, and who had an interest in alternative healing.

 

See how that campaign had a far greater likelihood of success?

 

Fewer eyeballs, yes, but these were the people most likely to be interested in his seminar. That is the value of specific audience messaging vs. broad marketing.

 

Here is how you can join the online advertising party:

 

1. Choose the right outlet: While there are a lot of options, your best is either Google or Facebook as that is where the traffic and results are.

 

2. Set a budget: Advertising and marketing is an ongoing process. If this is your first foray into pay per click advertising, start slow and small. Test ads, budgets, calls to actions, audiences. Both Facebook and Google make creating an ad and a budget super easy.

 

When you go to create your ad campaign on the platform(s) of your choice, there will be a place to set your budget. Like I said, start small, say even $100 for a week or two to start. See if it is getting clicks and what the cost per click is.

 

3. Figure out the ad: The different platforms have different options.

 

 

4. Target your audience: This is the best part in my opinion. Your audience can be as large or small as you want, and as specific as you prefer. But  remember – the greater the reach, the more you will pay. You want the audience who sees your advertisement to mirror your ideal customers; that is, the people most likely to buy from you.

 

This is where the magic of pay-per-click comes in.

 

5. Test the ad: This is key. It is unwise to simply create an ad, check out, and come back two weeks later to see what happened. Test, review, tweak, and see what works.

 

6. Roll it out: Once you know you have a successful ad, go for it. Spend more and run it often. It can become your cash cow.

 

 

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 Asksteve strauss headshot.png 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./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3359-412423/steve+strauss+headshot.png

 

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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

 

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

Pop quiz!

 

What is the best way to grow your business?win corporate clients pic.jpg

 

If you are like a lot of small business owners, you are often trying to answer this question. Should you upsell more to current clients, offer new, better, cheaper, or more expensive products or services, or what?

 

Let me suggest a simple, proven, powerful answer: go out and get corporate clients and/or sponsors.

 

Corporate clients have bigger needs, more money and bigger budgets than individuals or other small businesses. That means they have more money to spend hiring or buying from you, and that in turn means that you can grow your business faster and more easily with a few corporate contracts.

 

But don’t take it from me, take it from Bill Gates.

 

Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft, but it was just a dinky little business with a couple of employees and an algorithm that analyzed traffic patterns when Gates’ mom learned that Xerox was looking to buy an operating system for its nascent home computer line. Bill learned of the opportunity from her, got an interview, pitched, and landed a huge corporate contract. This one contract was the catalyst that would eventually see Gates named the second richest person in the world.

So, where do you find such sweet deals? There are many options:

 

1. Prospecting: Essentially, there are two ways to find corporate clients and sponsors. Either you find them, or they find you. For most small businesses (unless your business has a well-known brand or high social-media reach, see below), the fastest way is to go out and find them.

 

Corporations have many reasons to contract with small businesses. Not only do they have needs that small businesses can best fill (e.g., supplies, services, etc.) often there are legal and tax benefits to the corporation for hiring a small business. Your job is to help them help you. The steps are:

 

  • Research: Look for companies that you like, are close by, and may need what you sell. Use Google, websites, and social media to learn about the company

 

  • Find the purchasing people. Look especially for executives with titles like VP, head of procurement, purchasing manager, etc. LinkedIn is great for this.

 

  • Pitch them. Email is fine, but a physical package will get you noticed.

 

  • Meet in person and sell.

 

2. Check out supplier diversity programs: A “supplier diversity” program is a corporate platform that offers contracts with minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, etc. small business. Literally, billions of dollars of contracts are given out this way every year.

 

Recommended reading: How to Grow your Business with Supplier Diversity Programs

 

3. Marketing and advertising. Owning a small business can be a lot like being in a dark room by yourself – you know you are there, but no one else does. They only way to get noticed is to turn on the light, and the only way to do that is to market and advertise your business, and then do it some more.

 

And then do it some more.

 

Recommended Reading: The 4 Most Important Digital Marketing Strategies for Small Business Owners

 

4. Actively pursue corporate sponsors: You may have noticed that corporations love to sponsor events, websites, programs and so forth. I could write a whole column on this alone, but a better use of our time is to have you go to the expert, Linda Hollander, and her Sponsor Concierge website where she teaches people how to get “$10K to $100K from corporate sponsors, even if you’re just starting out!”

 

5. Leverage search engines: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your web pages to rank high on Google. It’s a slow process, but once it happens, your brand and sales will explode.

 

Recommended Reading: Why Local SEO Matters More Than Ever (and 4 Steps to Success)

 

6. Build your brand: As I mentioned, the other way to get bigger clients is to have a name and brand that attracts attention. When corporations knock on your door, that’s when the magic really happens.

 

How then to create that personal brand?

 

Here’s how.

 

 

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 Asksteve strauss headshot.png 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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

 

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

 

What if I told you that there was a company - whom you know well - that spends $2 billion a year hiring and contracting with small and diverse businesses? And what if I further told you that this company is always looking to expand its network of small business suppliers and that your business could be one of them? Would you be interested?supplier diversity pic.jpg

 

Of course you would.

 

That company happens to be our friends at Bank of America and these contractors are hired through its small business supplier diversity program. The bank puts it this way:

 

In 2020, Bank of America celebrates 30 years of commitment to engaging with diverse-owned companies. Through our Supplier Diversity program, we support the growth of minority, women, veteran, disabled, service-disabled veteran, LGBT+ and other diverse-owned suppliers.”

 

Bank of America is not the only one doing this. Most large, Fortune 500 companies have their own supplier diversity programs for the same reason: To get the products, supplies, and services they need to run their businesses, while also supporting local and historically underserved business.

 

They do this in a variety of ways. One way, yes, is that they contract with smaller companies to get goods and services, but often these sorts of programs do much more. As an example, look at BofA’s program:

 

  • Delivering training to small and diverse businesses with insights on accessing capital and credit, expanding their businesses and creating local economic impact
  • Supporting non-minority owned businesses use of diverse-owned businesses in their supply chains”
  • Encouraging participation in our Supplier Diversity and Development Mentoring Program – a high-touch mentor program customized for each company to drive optimum developmental impact

 

Supplier diversity programs exist to help businesses owned by traditionally underrepresented or disadvantaged people get better contracts and grow their businesses: Women, minorities, LGBQ, veterans, and so on. For large corporations, it is a no-brainer: There is a trackable high return on investment by using supplier diversity programs. And for you, the small businesses, these sorts of larger contracts are a great way to take your business to the next level.

 

3 Tips to Get Started

 

Here are three tips on how to get going with corporate supplier diversity contracts:

 

1. Register with a certifying organization: Although you can self-certify as a diverse supplier, most businesses like to hire small businesses that are certified as diverse to meet their legal diversity benchmarks and requirements. Such organizations include, but are not limited to: the Small Business Association, Vets First, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Business Council. Certification varies from organization to organization, but generally it requires documentation of one’s status and having the required diverse ownership.

 

2. Attend diversity supplier events: Events where organizations actively look for diverse suppliers happen regularly, often under the penumbra of “Business Matchmaking” or “Supplier Diversity.” The CVM blog is a good resource for this. Events happen often - look up when the next one is in your area online, or here.

 

3. Do your homework: While yes, these programs are designed to help small businesses get big contracts, the first issue is how well you, as a supplier, are able to fulfill these corporate needs. This is not charity and there is competition. So do your homework. Read up on supplier diversity programs, learn the requirements of each company you are interested in, find out what a successful bid looks like, speak with others who have successfully navigated this path, and so on.

 

If you do, congratulations, because it’s worth it. Indeed, getting one of these sorts of contracts can be, if not life changing, then business changing.

 

 

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 steve strauss headshot.pngExpert 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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

 

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

 

Corporations spend millions on Super Bowl ads every year and few businesses have been bigger spenders than beer companies in general and Michelob in particular.

 

So it was altogether very interesting that in this year’s Super Bowl, aside from a very funny commercial with Jimmy Fallon, Michelob Ultra ran an ad about . . . organic farming.

 

Now, why is that?

 

Because Michelob knows that, these days, cause marketing is smart marketing.

 

Michelob Ultra Pure Gold is the first national beer to be certified organic by the USDA, and so the ad showed how the company is helping farmers transition in their efforts to grow certified organic produce.

 

Companies are realizing that younger consumers – Gen Z and the Millennials – want and expect more from the businesses with whom they shop; they want those companies to stand for something.

 

Indeed, a recent survey found that 91% of Millennials prefer brands that have a cause associated with it.

 

Hence, a beer ad about organic farming.

 

All of which then begs the question: How do you, as a small business, show these younger consumers with disposable dollars, that you too are committed to making the world a better place and not just selling them a better widget?

 

And the answer is: Pick the right cause. Cause marketing is a way for any businesses to show their commitment to not only the bottom line, but their desire to better the world in the process, and that is what your new, younger customers want to see.

 

In fact, as a small business, you are uniquely situated to very much benefit from this advent of cause marketing. Showing that you are committed to the bigger picture is almost easier for a small business because your relationship with your customers is so personal. They will know and appreciate your efforts.

 

That said, there is an art to picking the right cause. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, you do not want one that is too hot (because it will turn people off) or too cold (because no one will care) but instead, one that is just right.

 

Here’s how to choose wisely:

 

1. Be Authentic. Young consumers are savvy and crave authenticity. They will smell a phony cause a mile away, so the first step is to choose a cause that:

 

  • Resonates with your customers,

 

  • Dovetails with your brand

 

An outdoor adventure business can donate to environmental causes. A men’s or women’s clothing store can donate a portion of each purchase to its local Dress for Success branch. A restaurant could create a dish where the proceeds go to its local food bank.

 

Choose something different, memorable, but which also stays true to you and your brand.

 

2. Make it win/win. Choosing the right cause or non-profit to donate to or otherwise work with should mean you both will benefit from the arrangement. The non-profit of course gets funds and publicity, but at the same time, your business should generate some buzz too. The only way to accomplish both is by publicizing your participation and making sure the recipient organization does as well.

 

Ultimately, you’re going to want to do something that not only benefits your nonprofit of choice, but also you.

 

3. Encourage customer participation. Nearly 70% of millennials want businesses to “make it easier for consumers to do their part in addressing issues such as health, the economy, and environmental sustainability.” So being able to allow your customers an easy gateway to do so with your cause marketing is crucial to its success.

 

 

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, steve strauss headshot.pngincluding 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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

 

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

 

 

If you are a professional – a lawyer, web designer, consultant or some similar occupation (as opposed to owning a product-based business) – I don’t need to tell you there is a lot of competition out there.personal brand.jpg

 

So how do you compete when everyone else in your field is trying to reach the same clients and eyeballs?

 

You have to create a great personal brand.

 

Creating a great personal brand is the secret sauce to getting noticed, standing out, attracting top-tier clients, and making more money. Indeed, once you build your personal brand to the point where you are spoken of in the same breath as those at the top of your field, then you do not have to compete on price. In fact, you can charge more because your clients will value your work above others’.

 

Charging a premium for your services is but one of many reasons you should consider working on your personal brand. In addition, a great personal brand:

 

  • Gives you added credibility

 

  • Keeps you top of mind

 

  • Results in consistent business

 

  • Ups your income potential

 

Consider Martha Stewart for a moment. Her personal brand was so strong that she could go to jail, come out, and not miss a beat.

 

Having a great personal brand is even more important for us mere mortals when online reputations are so central and when online networking and social media play such a vital part in our lives and businesses.

 

So, how do you create that valuable personal brand?

 

To help us understand, I recently chatted with an expert in the field.

 

Dan Schwabel  is a leading expert on personal branding, with a very popular blog, The Personal Branding Blog and a successful book on the subject (Me 2.0). Dan says the key to personal branding is authenticity; “your brand must honestly represent you and your value and values.” It must also be, he says, “transparent, and visible.”

 

Here’s how  you create that powerful, authentic, personal brand:

 

1. Be bold and authentic: “Wallflowers and shrinking violets don’t build brands,” Dan notes on his site. “People who are bold and enthusiastic do. For executives looking to make their mark and build a brand, being a hands-on, in the trenches type of person translates into authentic experience.”

 

2. Help, and then help some more: “If you want to really stand out, you must be useful and add maximum value at all times. Do this by offering free info, training, and content about your industry and share that info while speaking at events and on podcasts.”

 

3. Use all available tools: Apropos of #2 above, the way to build a brand is by consistently getting your name, message, tips, content, and information out there using all of the tools available to us today – a personal website, blogging, social media, podcasts, videos, etc.

 

4. Get a logo and catchphrase: Old school tools work. A well-done logo creates an immediate graphic representation of you and your business. For example:

                                                                                                     

 

5. Monitor: “Google alerts” let you see what is being said and written about you online. “Twitter search” does much the same for its service. By following these prompts, you can positively inject yourself into any online conversation about you, your services, and your business.

 

A top-notch personal brand can skyrocket your business to the next level. Yes it takes time, but the results will pay dividends for years.

 

 

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 /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3352-408614/Steve%2BStrauss%2BHeadshot%2BSBC.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.steve strauss headshot.png

 

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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.

 

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

“I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney,

and it’s always February 2nd, and there's nothing I can do about it.”

 

– Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day

 

aubrey-rose-odom-uxUUENpp01I-unsplash.jpg

 

So many small business owners are like Bill Murray in that fantastic movie. They are stuck, doing the same thing and making the same mistakes, over and over, and thinking there is nothing they can do about it.

 

The good news: Like Murray’s character, there actually is something you can do about it.

 

You have to learn your lessons.

 

There are all sorts of things business owners do that get them stuck in a time loop:

 

Not changing your marketing: Typically, when someone starts a business, they learn a few marketing tricks. It could be a Facebook ad campaign, or a stall at the local Saturday Market, or attending a regular networking event, etc.

 

Whatever the case, discovering a strategy that works is marketing gold because it allows you to live the dream.

 

Until it doesn’t.

 

What Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors learned, and what we must learn, is that doing the same thing again gets stale. Not only do you as the marketer get bored, but more importantly, so do your customers.

 

Marketing campaigns have a shelf life, and woe to small business owner who waits too long to realize it. In that case, their customers will be like “Phil, Phil Connors?” when he sees Ned Ryerson for the 119th day in a row.

 

Not firing employees . . . or customers: Yes, we all have people in our business lives who are, shall we say, challenging. And yes, loyalty is good. But again, until it is not.

 

Employees who don’t pull their weight can cost you a lot of profit and customers. Bored and under-achieving teammates are a drag on the business and shouldn’t be the norm if they create a negative time loop.

 

By the same token, we all know the customer who demands too much time and who takes too much effort. Yes, we like their business, but the truth is, it is often far better to cut ties with the cumbersome client.

 

But fret not; like the universe, business abhors a vacuum and the time you free up will be taken up by more useful ventures.

 

Not getting rid of the clutter: Aside from troubling clients and employees, there is other deadwood that doesn’t really serve us.

 

  • That room full of stuff
  • That perpetually messy desk

 

Clutter, in whatever form it takes, is a sign that fresh ideas are needed.

 

Sticking with old systems: Yes, we all get used to doing things a certain way, but one of the joys of having a small business these days is that there are so many great tools designed to make our business lives easier, to help small businesses look and act big.

 

An aging culprit could be:

 

  • Some analogue filing or inventory system from another century, or
  • A way-out-of-date computer or software system

 

Whatever the perpetrator, it is wise to reboot and update.

 

So, while yes, Groundhog Day the movie is very funny and even profound, Groundhog Day the life is not. The good news is that learning a few lessons and making a few simple changes can get you out of a tired loop. The bad news is that you won’t end up with the charming Andie McDowell at your side, but hey, at least you won’t be doing the time warp again (or mixing your metaphors!)

 

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 Steve+Strauss+Headshot+SBC.pngExpert 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 materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Mari Smith.

 

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

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

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.

 

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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

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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

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Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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