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213 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

More than 7 million people are enrolled in Precheck

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

 

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

 

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

 

TSA Precheck

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here are two Precheck tricks you should know about:

 

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

 

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

 

Global Entry

 

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

 

Global Entry provides travelers with the following perks:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bon voyage!

 

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About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

 

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

sector grew by a whopping 16% that same year.

 

What is that part of the economy?

 

E-commerce.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. Decide what you are going to sell.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

2. Create your e-commerce store:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

3. Get a merchant solution:

 

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

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Let’s drill down into each.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Related content:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here are some of my favorites:

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

You get the idea. A great analytical tool.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And I am not alone.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Specifically,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Start. Planning. Now.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

Though we are surrounded by a slew of shiny new social media platforms, the backbone of all digital communications, especially in business, remains email. Even though the first email was sent all the way back in the 1970s, it has not lost an ounce of its relevance after all these years, and in fact, is now more vital than ever.

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As times have changed, however, so has email etiquette. What was acceptable at the turn of the century is different from what passes muster today. But fear not. I have compiled a list of the six most important rules when it comes to business emails. Take a look:

 

1. Write a subject line that resonates: Whether you are writing a proposal, a virtual introduction, or simply a follow-up, you want your email to get noticed and read.

 

In this regard, your subject line is your first, and easily most important, tool.

 

Quickly summarizing your email in the subject line is a great way to make sure your email does not get skipped over. By the same token, a “No Subject” email will never catch anyone’s attention, and similarly, a boring subject line will easily get ignored. So craft a short and snappy subject line that will cause them to want to read more.

 

Think of it as the headline of your story.

 

2. Keep it short: What do you do when you get an 8-paragraph email? If you are human, you tune out.

 

The secret is to keep your emails short and sweet to the extent possible. Not only does a shorter email save you time, but it also helps you build a good reputation as someone who respects other people’s time, and in the business world, it is essential to make this kind of impression.

 

Other people are just as busy as you are. Because we all skim over our emails from time to time, the details of a long email will surely get lost in the shuffle. Your emails must be short and easy to read if you want to ensure business gets taken care of.

 

One last note re: length. Keep paragraphs short, too. Attention spans are shorter these days. Long paragraphs are difficult to read. Keep it snappy, pappy.

 

3. Emojis are OK!: This is a significant – and recent – change. It used to be that emojis were seen as child’s play, literally. But not so today. Emojis help to personalize email communications. Yes, you must use them judiciously, but, that said, the right emoji at the right time helps you create rapport with the right person.

 

4. Use the correct tone: Work has become less formal and email has followed suit. Friendliness and being personable in your written communications are generally quite important.

 

Remember though that tone and intonation do not easily translate into text. Because of this, you need to be careful about using sarcasm or making facetious jokes; these can easily be misinterpreted in the context of an email.

 

By the same token, an email can quickly come across as rude or too-serious if there is no detectable levity (even if the words are innocuous spoken out loud.) An exclamation mark or lightly playful remark will remedy this, amigo!

 

5. Writing is re-writing: You. Must. Proofread. Period. While this tip may seem obvious, there are plenty of people who still forget to proofread their emails before they send them off. Using “i”  instead of “I” for instance makes your look sloppy, immature, or both.

 

Look for obvious spelling and grammatical errors, but also make sure your email is readable, organized, and formatted properly. For example, if you notice two different topics in one paragraph, you should take the time to break up that paragraph into two smaller ones. Proofreading your emails will make you look smart and will make it easier for your recipient to give you the response you need.

 

Writing is re-writing.

 

6. Remember, nothing is private: This is the key rule for using the internet generally, and email specifically. Only the illusion of privacy exists in email. People forward on emails, they bcc people, they copy and paste, etc. There is no privacy in email.

 

Although email has evolved throughout the years, the basic rules remain the same. Common sense (and good grammar) can see you through.

 

 

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

One of the great things about being in business for yourself these days is that there are a lot of helpful resources to be found. Back in the day, especially the pre-Internet day, entrepreneurs were mostly on their own. They would rise or fall based on what they knew or – more accurately – did not know.

 

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Not now. Today, not only are there more resources, but they are also far more readily available. Not knowing, and not having help, is mostly a thing of the past.

 

In particular, there is especially a lot of help for women and veteran small businesses aimed at encouraging small business ownership among these groups. Here are some of our favorites:

 

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:

 

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.

 

 

Resources for Female Entrepreneurs

 

While women face unique challenges when it comes to business, they don’t have to go at it alone. Community, funding, training, mentoring and much more are available both on and offline. Check out:


The SBA: Any woman looking to launch a career in entrepreneurship should begin their search by going to the SBA Office Women Business Ownership Home Page
SCORE: At SCORE, either online or off, you can get free, confidential, expert business mentoring from coaches nationwide.
Female entrepreneurship training: IGNITE straddles the line between veteran and female entrepreneurship. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities nationwide.

National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO has chapters throughout the country that sponsor educational meetings and networking events. NAWBO's website includes online entrepreneurial training and resources.

Entrepreneurship Websites: The internet is full of sites designed to inspire, educate, and empower women. Some offer free content, some are membership sites, and some are geared toward conferences or education. Popular sites include Woman Owned She Owns It the Female Entrepreneur Association. You can find others by searching for websites and blogs for women entrepreneurs.

 

        • Check out this collection highlighting how to embrace the unique challenges women face and thrive as small business owners.

 

Financial Resources for all

 

All entrepreneurs should know about the funding options available from the Small Business Administration. The programs below are great options, whether you are a woman, veteran or any other type of small business owner:


The 7(a) Loan Program: This bread-and-butter program is one of SBA's primary lending vehicles. It provides very favorable terms on loans to small businesses                unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. One important thing to note is that the SBA does not make loans itself. Instead, it guarantees loans made by private financial institutions – banks, credits unions, and so on.

SBA CAPLines: Need working capital? This is the place to go.


Microloans: The expedited SBA Microloan program offers small business loans, up to $50,000.

 

CDFIs: Also known as local loan centers – provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit organizations operating in lower income communities.

 

 

Yes, it is fun to start and grow a small business, but it also can be lonely and difficult. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available today making it less so.

 

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

According to the third annual Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight (HSBOS), 79 percent of Hispanic business owners plan to grow their business over the next five years, a full 24 percentage points higher than non-Hispanic entrepreneurs (55 percent).

 

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According to the HSBOS:

 

Hispanic entrepreneurs are significantly more optimistic than their non-Hispanic counterparts when it comes to both their business and economic outlooks. Similarly, Hispanic business owners report greater confidence in the direction of the national economy, as well as their local economies.

 

The stats bear this out. When asked about their outlook for the next 12 months,

 

  • 87 percent of Hispanic business owners said they plan to expand (vs. 67 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)
  • 74 percent said they expected revenue will increase (vs. 57 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs), and
  • 51 percent said they planned to hire more (vs. 26 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)

 

So yes, that is a lot of optimism!

 

One of the things I love about the Bank of America Small Business Owner Spotlight is not just that it is full of headlines, but it actually digs deep to give reasoning and context for the news it always seems to break.

 

In this case, what was so interesting is why Hispanic entrepreneurs are so optimistic. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be community and family. (OK, you got me, that’s two words, three actually, but you get the idea.)

 

The bottom line is that Hispanic small business owners are buoyed by their families around them, both actual and extended (and in that, there is a vital lesson for the rest of us. Read on.)

 

  • It’s a family investment: 23 percent of the non-Hispanics surveyed planned on passing their business onto their children. But among Hispanic small business owners, that number is almost double since they see the business as a familybusiness, making it both a motivator anda creator of optimism.
  • The community is involved: Survey participants stated that their community is another influential participant in their success, with 86 percent saying community support is an important part of their success and motivation. Furthermore, and significantly, 22 percent of the Hispanic entrepreneurs said they became a business owner specifically in order to make a difference in their community (compared to only 17 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs.)
  • Employees make a huge difference: And an amazing 91 percent of survey respondents indicated that their employees are critical to their ability to achieve their goals.

 

All of this begs the question: Does all of this optimism make a difference, and if so, how? The answer is an unequivocal yes. While entrepreneurs are optimistic by both nature and vocation, that optimism eventually needs to rest on something real, lest it becomes just so much hot air.

 

In the case of these Hispanic small business owners, their optimism is tied directly to not only a strong economy but to an even stronger family and extended support network. This gives them the ability to take smart, calculated risks and grow their businesses.

 

Example: One interesting takeaway from the HSBOSis that the entrepreneurs surveyed are clearly more inventive and creative when it comes to hiring. The Hispanic entrepreneurs surveyed say they have had to refine their hiring and recruiting approach to better compete in this ultra-competitive job market. How?

 

  • They have turned to social media in far greater numbers than other groups to find and recruit talent (32 percent vs. 23 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • They have begun to offer a more flexible work culture (27 percent vs. 25 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • And maybe most indicative, they are paying higher salaries (26 percent vs. 17 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)

 

As I mentioned, there is a critical lesson in here for the rest of us: By involving one’s family in the business, by getting even more involved in one’s community, and by engaging with and rewarding that extended community, you can create the sort of safety net that simultaneously reduces your risk while increasing the likelihood of your success.

 

 

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 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

It could be said that an entrepreneurial spirit is often an inherited trait. Like many entrepreneurs, I grew up in a small business household where I watched my father’s small carpet store become a healthy chain of around 15 locations. The reality of life as a small business owner was a typical kitchen table conversation in my family.

 

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When I was seven or eight years old I was asked to write a report about what my dad did for a living. Where my classmate’s parents had easily identifiable jobs like “lawyer” or “nurse,” I struggled to find a simple way to sum up “retail carpet store owner.”

 

“Tell them that I’m an entrepreneur, Stevie” was my father’s response. When I asked what that meant, he explained that an entrepreneur was someone “who took a risk with money to make money.”

 

I have heard many definitions of the word entrepreneur since, and many are quite good, but my dad’s characterization is still my favorite. It combines the essence and thrill of entrepreneurship – it illustrates that going into business requires risk, but also the possibility of a payoff if done well.

 

In the years since that conversation with my father I have learned the best entrepreneurs strive to reduce the inherent risk of running their own business whenever possible. It’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely, and you probably wouldn’t want to because risk is what makes it possible to grow and achieve new levels of success. But the smartest small business people learn to reduce risk, and, even then, to make sure that the risks they do take are well thought out and worth the potential loss.

 

How do they do that? Here are a few ways:

 

1. Court bigger, more stable customers and clients: There are many factors that are outside of the control of the small business owner. The economy surges and dips. Clients’ needs change. One way then to counter the constantly shifting business cycle is to work with stable corporate and government clients, when possible, because bigger customers can lead to bigger budgets and long-term relationships.

 

Generating opportunities to work on coveted corporate or government contracts can be challenging but is not impossible. I recently gave a webinar on the subject for SCORE, which can be viewed here

 

2. Create additional profit centers: If having bigger and better customers helps stabilize your business cycle, it should follow that having additional products and services can also help by diversifying the kinds of clients you serve.

 

Starbucks is a simple example of this kind of development. Originally the company only sold coffee beans, but they soon added coffee drinks. Then, capitalizing on an opportunity, they added Frappucinos to boost warm weather sales. And then food, music, and so on. Small businesses can use this same method to grow their offerings. By analyzing the market segment that you’re supporting and adding additional products and services to your offerings as opportunities arise, you increase the chances of making more sales in both good times and bad.

 

3. Establish proper legal status: It may be tempting to leave legalities for the future while you get your business up and running but delaying those steps may leave both you and your budding endeavor vulnerable. Incorporate right away. Establish business credit apart from your personal credit. Make sure you have enough insurance.

 

Yes, risk is part of the game, but if you play your cards right, you can ensure that your company grows and returns the investment on the time, work and care you put into it.

 

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 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

Not long ago, I was researching a company with whom I might do some business  and, as is the case so often with social media, I ended up down a rabbit hole of tangential information. Somehow, at one point, I found myself on the personal Facebook page of the CEO. He was wearing a red baseball cap that said:

 

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“Make America Great Again”

 

That moment affected my decision (although which way I will not disclose.), The moment serves as a reminder that social media generally, and Facebook specifically, is a public, not a private, place.

 

Most importantly for our purposes, you better be darned sure that you want to publicly wade into the political and cultural wars that divide our country these days because if you do, you will surely evoke a strong response one way or another.

 

Now, maybe you are thinking that politics and small business don’t mix, and if so, I agree. People frequent your business because you provide products or services they like. My take is that they don’t really care what you think, and in fact, in this era of divided politics, I suggest what you think has more risk of doing harm than good.

 

But guess what? We may be wrong.

 

According to Forbes, a recent survey of U.S. consumers found that an amazing two-thirds say “they want brands to engage in social and political issues.” That number goes even higher for younger consumers, those 18-34 years old – 73 percent of millennials want brands to speak up.

 

But here’s the rub: That same survey found more than half (52 percent) of respondents would show greater brand loyalty if they agreed with the brand’s position while even more (53 percent) said if they disagree with the brand’s position on an issue, they would frequent the brand less with a sizable minority stating they would publicly criticize the brand.

 

Given that sobering news, while consumers might want brands to speak up, there is a lot of risk for those that do. And yet, even so, there is also clearly a lot of pressure these days on businesses to take a stand. It might be a faction of employees who want their voices heard, or maybe some customers who feel strongly about an issue.

 

So, what do you do? How can you take a stand in an era of highly partisan politics? Here are a few tips that might help:

 

1. Pick your battles: Supporting a politician, opposing a politician, whatever, is just too risky. The possibility of angering your customers is too high with, as I said, little payoff. Unless supporting a candidate or party is mostly a no-brainer for your small business, the general rule is to leave this area alone.

 

Better: Choose to support an issue that resonates with you, your business and/or your clientele. Choosing an issue that aligns with the values of your business can help reinforce your brand. An outdoor travel company can safely champion environmental causes without wading into the political battles of the day.

 

2. Be a uniter not a divider: We all know what the hot-button topics are, and again, the problem is, if you play with those issues you can get burned.

 

A better strategy for the business that wants to get involved is to pick an issue not as polarizing. A topic that aligns with your values and which people generally support allows you to do good while minimizing the risk of alienating key customers.

 

Example: In the past decade, Coca-Cola  expanded its giving portfolio beyond educational causes to include access to safe drinking water and healthy living across the globe. To illustrate, Coke supports the Global Environment and Technology Foundation’s work in Africa to “replenish water sources and improve access to safe drinking water.”

 

World NGO Day can be a first step for small businesses wanting to support a social cause.

 

3. Go incognito: If you really feel the need to share your political views, do what a pal of mine recently did. He created a new Twitter account, an incognito one, and uses it to rage against the other political team.

 

And no one knows that he owns the small business down the street.

 

Check out what Rieva Lesonsky had to say about whether small businesses should take a political stand.

 

 

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 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

I always knew that entrepreneurs liked their work, but I never knew just how much. How much? Apparently quite a lot.

 

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If you own a business, are self-employed, or otherwise know people who work for themselves, you know this to be true. Small business owners are in it for a good many

reasons – economics for sure, necessity sometimes, and often most importantly, for the pure enjoyment of doing what they love.

 

According to Bank of America’s Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), an amazing 90 percent of small business owners say they would recommend entrepreneurship as a career path to others. That is amazing.

 

But what about the long hours you say, the hard work and uncertainty?

 

Even more respondents – 91 percent – say it’s all worth it.

 

This is not to say entrepreneurship is easy, because it is not. The SBOR is a bi-annual survey that looks at the state of small business in America, and it always offers a fascinating glimpse into the real world of the small business owner.

 

For example, looking at economic and hiring trends, the Fall 2018 SBOR report zeroed in on what it takes to succeed in your own business.

 

Is it:

  • Access to capital? Partially, according to 68 percent of respondents
  • A solid network? Yup, 78 percent thought that was the answer
  • Luck? A forthcoming 56 percent agreed luck played a role

 

But in the end, and not surprisingly, the small business owners who participated in the survey thought that the keys to success were perseverance (96 percent) and good old-fashioned hard work (97 percent.)

 

One of the biggest challenges small business owners have today, and not surprising given the strong state of the economy, is attracting and retaining top talent is tougher than ever.

 

“While business owners are pleased with the direction of the economy and planning for growth, they are confronted with a new challenge. More entrepreneurs are looking to hire in the year ahead against the backdrop of one of the tightest job markets in half a century,” the report noted.

 

Consider these findings:

  • 58 percent report difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies
  • 50 percent believe the tightening labor market had a direct impact on their ability to hire, and
  • 25 percent believe it took more time to fill positions this year than last year

 

The good news: The Fall 2018 SBOR shares some interesting ways small business employers use to recruit talent.

 

For instance, fully a quarter of the respondents said they have shifted to a more flexible culture to attract talent. Specifically, the SBOR drilled down into some differences in individual cities and found employers in Boston are most likely to give holiday perks to their team. In Dallas, employers use ongoing training to keep employees involved. And in the San Francisco area, flex hours are the key.

 

With 55 percent of respondents saying they expect the national economy to improve over the next year (compared to 29 percent in 2016), it makes sense that small business owners are looking to grow their own businesses and find the right mix of employees who can help them do that.

 

And I think what those employers are looking for may be the other big surprise in this SBOR. Do they want a well-educated workforce? Of course (30 percent). Do they want a staff with experience? Yes, that too (53 percent).

 

But most of all, what these small business owners looked for were . . . people with “integrity” (60 percent). That’s amazing when you think about it. By a 2-to-1 margin, small business owners value integrity over education when choosing their staff.

 

As I said, I love when the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report comes out because I always learn something new and unexpected. I bet you will too. You can see the infographic for the report here.

 

Learn more about attracting and retaining employees:

 

 

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 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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Since 2012, “Giving Tuesday” has taken place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. After all of the focus on shopping around that time – what with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday is a welcome respite; a day for individuals and businesses to give back to their community.

 

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It’s not surprising that small businesses are typically enthusiastic about participating in Giving Tuesday: After all, small business people are generally highly idealistic. (You have to be if you are going to quit your job and start a business from scratch.) But, beyond that, small business people also know if it were not for their tribe and community, they would not be in business for long. So, when it comes to giving to the community, small businesses know it is important to give back.

 

How, you ask? Here are some ideas as to how your small business can give back to your community – on Giving Tuesday, and indeed throughout the holiday season.

 

1. Team up: Last year on Giving Tuesday, Tadlock Roofing partnered with Boys Town, a national nonprofit that supports children, families and communities. Tadlock Roofing offered to match donations to Boys Town up to $10,000, and additionally, the President of the company agreed to jump out of a plane if they met their goal. Sure enough, the President of Tadlock Roofing was captured jumping out of a plane to show that the sky’s the limit to give back.

 

2. Encourage a community service day or days: Many local non-profits are now, in anticipation of Giving Tuesday, creating giving events for that day. See what is happening in your area and help out. Here are some examples.

 

More broadly, Giving Tuesday does not have to be confined to that one day. Employees love being able to volunteer, especially around the holidays, so a great way to give back is to offer your team paid time off to do volunteer work within the community. Contact local food banks, senior centers, and elderly services to see where there might be volunteer opportunities.

 

3. Give a percentage of your sales to charity: Pick a cause that you like, that inspires your team, and which will resonate with your customers, and then pledge to set aside profits for that Tuesday to that group or charity. Yes, it is nice that that will be tax deductible, but what is even nicer is the good you will do and the goodwill you will foster.

 

4. Offer special discounts for the elderly, the disabled, and those in need: Offering special discounts to these groups is another way to do well by doing good. It would be a win-win for all concerned.

 

5. Organize a food drive to provide donations for a local food bank: The amount of hungry people in this country is truly astounding. By teaming-up with an appropriate Giving Tuesday organization, you can really make a difference. Indeed, helping the hungry is as giving as it gets.

 

6. Organize a toy drive for the holidays: Similarly, there are not a few parents who are unable to give their kids the sort of holiday they would prefer. You can either work with a local charity, or even simply locate a needy family and “adopt” them for the holidays.

 

7. Get your social on: One of the cool things about Giving Tuesday is that it is a national, nay international, movement. Sharing your participation is not gauche as it helps spread the word. And the Giving Tuesday organization wants to help you do just that. You can download and use their social media toolkit here. Or just remember, #GivingTuesday.

 

(You can download the entire Giving Tuesday Communications and Participation plan here.)

 

 

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 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.  ©2018 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.

 

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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

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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

When leaving the military, veterans are faced with a choice:

 

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What to do next?

 

For many, the choice is clear. They learned or sharpened skills during their time of service and those skills make them eminently employable. Combined with their ability to work in a team, follow direction, and lead, you see why many veterans are in high demand by employers upon discharge.

 

But, that said, interestingly, many of those same traits are also the ones needed to start a business: Taking the initiative, creating a plan, following through, etc. So yes, veterans also make great entrepreneurs, and maybe that is why they are so successful at it. According to the Census Bureau, just about 10 percent of all small businesses in this country are owned by veterans (roughly 2.5 million), and those business employ some 5 million Americans.

 

If you have a veteran-owned business, or want to start one, the good news is that there is a lot of help available, much of it absolutely free.

 

Here are some of the best:

 

Free online introduction to veteran entrepreneurship course: Bunker in a Box is a great resource.  Embark on 14 “missions” that include video, expert commentary, related articles and track your progress. According to Bunker CEO Todd Conner, “The Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.”

 

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC): Speaking of training, the purpose of PBC is “to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs leading the new economy.” Programs are held in various cities nationwide.

 

University training: The leader for in-person, live entrepreneurship training is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (in conjunction with a host of other major universities.) Here you will find an online 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-person session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring.

 

Women entrepreneurship training: IGNITE is also operated by IVMF (and the SBA.) Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

Even more free training: VettoCEO is a program exclusively for verified members of the military and for veterans. Designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, the course is offered online “so that anyone, anywhere can participate in a well-designed, collaborative online environment.”

 

Small Business Administration programs: Not surprisingly, the SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. Check out its Operation Boots to Business program, whose goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

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

 

Free money: The Street Shares Foundation gives away combined $25,000 every year for veteran entrepreneurship.

 

Even more money: If you need investments in the six-figures, check out the veteran-focused angel fund, Hivers & Strivers.

 

Contracting opportunities: The National Veteran Owned Business Association, NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.

 

So yes, with so much help available, it is a great time to be, or to want to be, a veteran entrepreneur.

 

Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

For more information about great business resources for veteran entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes:

 

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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.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

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