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200 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

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

Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

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

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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:

 

Read next:

 

 

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

“First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare, Henry VI

 

My colleague ended up with a huge problem. The owner of a very popular local pub around for decades,  she never once ran into any major problems. For the most part, her employees were happy, and her customers were happy.

 

One day, a server dropped a tray and spilled a few drinks. No big deal – this is commonplace in the restaurant business. However, here’s where the story goes south: In the very small window between the spill and going to fetch the wet floor sign in the back, a customer slipped and fell. This is every restaurant owner’s worst nightmare.67504037_s.jpg

 

To complicate matters, her insurance company refused coverage, so when the customer proceeded to sue, my colleague suddenly faced a two-front war: A battle with her own insurance company and a lawsuit from a disgruntled customer. The legal fees she was facing were potentially enormous. My colleague was terrified.

 

She spent sleepless nights obsessively thinking about the problem. The legal fees were piling up. Social media was killing her. The stress was, too. In the end, although she had legitimate legal claims to rely on (the insurance company should have paid, the customer likely was at fault), she settled both claims, but not before almost going under.

 

It took two years, but eventually the business clawed its way back.

 

The fact is, every business eventually encounters big problems, sometimes catastrophic ones. It could be the big contract that got cancelled or a hurricane that severely damages the store.

 

What do you do? Here’s what:

 

1. Assessment: Even though it’s easy to panic, you can’t. The first thing when faced with a catastrophe is to properly assess the situation. Think rationally. What has happened? What is at stake? What needs to happen in the short term, and what needs to happen in the long term? What can you control and not control from this point forward? Make lists. Do your research.

 

Usually, insurance must be assessed immediately. Even if you don’t realize it, there’s certainly a chance that you are covered. Speak with your agent and your attorney. There are lots of stipulations and fine print when it comes to insurance.

 

2. Fix the immediate problem: There won’t always be a clear-cut solution like my colleague’s, and even in her case, it was not clear cut. But whatever the case, immediate issues must of course be addressed first.

 

3. Think long-term: This could mean finding experts or going through the correct bureaucratic processes. After a catastrophe, you will very likely need help. This likely means leaning more heavily on your staff. It can also mean asking your customers to give your business some extra love. People want to help, and you should let them.

 

4. Learn your lesson: Bad things happen. Sometimes the best you can do, like our restaurant owner, is to cut your losses, learn your lesson, and move on. Other times, it means gutting it out. Either way, surviving a catastrophe is typically a two-step process:

 

  • Initially, the big problem must be overcome.
  • Then, once things settle down, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

If you lost that huge contract, that means diversifying your client base so you are not dependent on one customer going forward. If you were flooded, it might mean relocating.

 

While you can’t prevent bad things from happening, at least learning your lesson and making necessary changes reduces the likelihood that a particular problem will happen again.

 

 

Read next:    

The Types of Insurance Your Small Business Really Needs

Q & A : Fighting is Expensive. What to do if You Are Sued

 

 

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

We are living in a world of part-time work and multiple jobs – that’s right, it’s the gig economy. The gig economy remains a contentious topic, but it is growing and will continue to grow. In fact, the gig economy is “expected to be 43 percent of the work force by the year 2020.”

 

Even small business owners may look for a ‘side hustle’ to earn extra income until the business gains more traction, or even consider hiring a ‘gig’ worker.

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For workers, making a living as a gig economy contractor requires a lot of self-motivation and

perseverance. Even though you don’t technically have a boss (except yourself), there are plenty of challenges that come with being a part of the gig economy.

 

The biggest one? Finding gigs.

 

The gig economy is tough because it doesn’t guarantee ongoing work – that is exactly what the word “gig” implies, after all. That means it’s up to you – the freelancer – to find work, again and again. This can be exhausting.

 

However, the good news is that finding your gigs doesn’t have to be a gig unto itself. Knowing where to look for work is half the battle, which is why we’ve compiled this list of six of the best freelance platforms to help you find your next gig.

 

Freelancer: It’s hard to beat Freelancer – the name does speak for itself, after all. There are thousands upon thousands of listings on Freelancer. The concept is pretty cool: you get to browse all the listings, click on a project, view its details and budget, and then bid on the gig. Think of it as eBay for freelance gigs.

 

Freelancer is also nice because it isn’t exclusive to any one category; you can find work whether you’re a writer, editor, graphic designer, assistant, etc.

 

Unfortunately, because there are many different freelancers competing for a single gig on Freelancer, the pricing on this site is quite competitive. Meaning, you might not make a ton of money this way. It’s great, however, for building your portfolio and being able to work on several gigs at once.

 

UpWork: UpWork is another extremely comprehensive website with hundreds to thousands of listings. UpWork differs from Freelancer in that you do not have to bid for a gig. In fact, the company or person that posted the listing will often reach out to the freelancers they think would be best for the gig. Your response rate will be public on your profile and will affect your visibility to people looking to hire.

 

99designs: If you’re a designer looking for some extra work, this is the website for you. 99designs has a contest element involved: a company will post they need a new logo for instance, and freelance designers make their submission, and the company gets to choose their favorite. Pretty neat.

 

Craigslist: Craigslist is one of the first websites to help people find new work, and it is still one of the best to this day. If you click on the “gigs” section, you will find an array of people looking for freelancers to help them out with various projects. Work for photographers, artists, computer programmers, interior designers – it’s all here.

 

Etsy: Etsy is the place for you if you’re looking to sell crafts, art, jewelry, etc. Etsy is hugely popular – in 2017, 30 million users spent $3 billion on the website. You’re sure to find gigs this way.

 

Freelance Writing Jobs: This one’s for you, writers and editors. Freelance Writing Jobs gives you a list of hundreds of different writing gigs, curated just for you.

 

Yes, the search to find new gigs can be intimidating and at times overwhelming. But if you know where to search, you are already well on your way. You can do it, freelancer!

 

Read next:

          A Guide to the Gig Economy

          Is the Gig Economy right for you? Some things you should consider

          Which Gig Economy Delivery Service is Right for your Small Business?

          How to Adjust Your Business to the Gig Economy

 

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

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 to win $25,000 for your small business.

 

Mastercard, in association with Bank of America, is running  the second 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 will you grow your small business? Not sure what to put in your pitch video? You can get entry tips from judge Bonin Bough here.

 

  1. Pitch: Four Finalists will be invited to New York City on November 8 to make their pitch to the judges. The four finalists each will receive $1,000, along with some business consulting and help from the judges.

 

  1. 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 September 30.

 

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 enter Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How will you grow your small business?” 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 11/8/18 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

*No Purchase Necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to small business owners in the 50 US and DC, 18+. Ends 9/30/18. Restrictions apply. Click here for Official Rules and complete details.

 

 

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

 

By the time he was in his mid-50s, Ray was a mediocre, unhappy, traveling milkshake mixer salesman.

 

And then it happened.

 

The fateful day that changed everything. His life. Your life. And mine.

 

On that day, Ray called upon a new client – a restaurant in Southern California. It was there that Ray discovered a radical new way of running the business. So amazed was he, so enamored, that Ray committed himself 100 percent to working with and for the brothers who owned the place. Before long, they gave in to Ray’s enthusiasm and cajoling and hired him.

 

Within 10 years, Ray Kroc’s vision for what the McDonald brothers had created begat a behemoth, and he had invented the system of franchising along the way. New franchisees were taught the McDonald’s way, allowed to use its name, brand, recipes, and systems, and (for a fee of course) were able to open their own McDonald’s.

 

So yes, franchising is a remarkable way to join something bigger than oneself, but it doesn’t come without risks. Indeed, there are both pros and cons to buying a franchise.

 

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Maybe the best part of buying a franchise is that you are buying into a proven system. Here is how it works: Somewhere, some business owners created a successful business they thought could be duplicated, systematized and taught. The owners reduced their success to a step-by-step plan, and that plan – the system – as well as their business model and brand and “secret sauce” is sold to would-be entrepreneurs.

 

That is the essence of a franchise.

 

The idea is that if the franchisees do what the owners did, they will get the results that the owners got. A good franchise then is a systematic way of doing business whereby you agree to do things the franchisor’s way and are being allowed to use their business name, logo, system, and so on.

 

So, the first benefit of franchising is that you theoretically reduce your risk of failing as you are buying a proven business success system.

 

The second good thing about buying a franchise is that you should get plenty of help. Ray Kroc put it best: As a franchisee, you might be in business for yourself, but you are not in business by yourself. Whereas when you start a business from scratch you are on your own, when you start a franchise, the franchisor and other franchisees are there to help you succeed.

 

The franchisor in particular will offer expertise in a wide variety of areas: marketing, accounting, finances, labor, etc. A good franchise system therefore should train you to be a successful businessperson.

 

The last benefit of franchising is that you will get assistance with your advertising and marketing, and with the bigger franchise systems, you will get the benefit of their national advertising campaign.

 

Cons

 

While the benefits of buying a franchise are significant, the downsides must be considered too.

 

The first is that it can be expensive to buy a franchise. When you are buying a franchise, you are buying the franchisor’s name, logo, goodwill, expertise, system and training. That can be worth a lot, especially for a well-known franchise. This is not to say that all franchises are expensive, there are many that are quite reasonable, but just know that if you want to buy a name-brand franchise, you will pay for that right.

 

How much? Here are a few examples:

 

  • Want to buy a Taco Bell? Startup costs, including construction expenses, range between $1.2 million and $2.6 million for a new restaurant, according to the company's franchisee disclosure document. The franchise fee alone (the fee for buying in), is $45,000.
  • Conversely, a small home-based franchise system might have a $2,500 franchise fee and total costs of $10,000.

 

The second issue is that you will have less independence as a franchisee than you would as a regular entrepreneur. The system is the system, and you will agree in your franchise contract to run your business according to the system. Because the franchisor trusts you with its brand and goodwill, you will need to do things their way.

 

The final downside, and this is important, is that in relation to your franchisor, you will be in a position of relative weakness. The franchise contract, for example, is drafted by the franchisor’s attorney to favor them. The franchisor will know more about the business than you, and likely will be better financed than you.

 

Not insignificant, any of this.

 

The important thing to understand in this regard is that not all franchisors are created equal; some are great to work with while you should run in the other direction from others. How do you know the difference?

 

  • Speak with other franchisees to learn of their experience
  • Use Google
  • Research potential lawsuits that the franchisor has been involved in

 

All in all, if you do your homework and find a good franchisor to team-up with this, you should find that franchising can be a really great way to get started in business.

 

Related Content:

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America

8 Steps Toward Starting a New Business

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Buying a Business 

How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

Did you know that “Get to Know Your Customers Day” is observed on the third Thursday of each quarter (January, April, July, October)? You may not, because there are some 1,500 “days” nationally, but if you own or run a small business, this one is worth a second look.

 

We all know customers are the lifeblood of our business but we may not always act that way. Between dealing with the staff, marketing, returning emails, and doing projects, “customer service” can sometimes be an oxymoron.

 

But it shouldn’t be, especially in the Amazon age we live in. 42131715_s.jpg

 

One of the hallmarks of a small business is that we take care of our customers. We have – or should have – the personal touch. But that can get lost these days, not only in the hustle and bustle of life, but in the digital avalanche of today’s world. And yet, at a time when people can shop online and get their products quickly and for less money, the need to offer great service is more important than ever.

 

Indeed, why shop with you if shopping online is cheaper and you aren’t excelling at customer service?

 

Related Content: How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out

 

Yes, excelling. Fine is not good enough anymore.

 

That is where “Get to Know Your Customers Day” comes in. The idea, obviously, is by getting to know your customers better, you can better serve them and the more connected they will be to your business. That last point needs to be underscored. People do business with, and shop at, stores and people whom they like. The more they feel an emotional connection to your business – because they know you and know that you appreciate them – the less likely they are to be lured away by that Amazon Prime deal of the day.

 

Given all of this, not only is the idea behind Get To Know Your Customer Day valid, it is a value proposition that should be adopted and implemented across the board.

 

Get to Know Your Customers. Period.

 

Here are a few ways to do just that:

 

Use their name: One of the best pieces of business advice I ever got was when someone told me, “People love their name.” And it’s true. If you use their name they perk up, and if you forget it, they perk down. If you have a retail shop it would really behoove you to learn the names of your regulars.

 

Take time: I know you’re busy. Very busy. That’s the way it goes these days. Even so, taking the time to meet and speak with your customers can go a long way to cementing your relationship with them.

 

In my world, most of the people who hire me do not live in the city where I live. Like you maybe, a lot of my work is done remotely and via email. And that is why I make a concerted effort to go meet them in person. Taking the time to get to know my customers makes for a much more solid, satisfying, and mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Check in: Aside from the meet-and-greet, there are lots of ways to easily and quickly be more customer-centric. Shoot them an email checking in. Or send an email after a purchase to see if they were happy with it. Forward on a newsletter you think may be of interest. Text them hello.

 

Give thanks: Sending a gift card or discount coupon to your store would be quite welcome. What about offering them a loyalty program for “best customers only?” Or consider this radical idea:

 

     Related Content: How to Start a Loyalty Program Before the Holidays

 

Write them a thank you note.

 

     Related Content: Thinking Beyond the 10%-off Coupon: Five better ways to thank your customers

 

The idea behind a thank you note is the same behind Get to Know Your Customers Day: In an era where things increasingly are digital and impersonal, going analogue can be a game changer.

 

     Read Next:  How Good Is Your Customer Service? Here Are 6 Steps to Find Out by Rieva Lesonsky

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

As a small business owner, there are likely a lot of people, institutions and groups that target your business as a potential sponsor of their group or event. Whether it is a local youth sports league or a concert in the park, groups target small businesses because we have 1) a built-in audience, and 2) the perceived financial wherewithal to help underwrite the event.

 

But even though they want you, the question is, do you want them?

 

The answer should probably be yes, for six very good reasons:

 

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1. It creates goodwill: Goodwill is one of those things in business that is important, vital even, but a little amorphous. Essentially, it is the reputation your business has in the community generally, and among your customers specifically.

 

The value of sponsoring an event is that it boosts the status of your business. Not only do people like and appreciate event sponsors, but additionally, they think more highly of a business that can sponsor an event. Additionally, tying your business to an event will co-brand your business with that event.

 

The upshot is that your business reputation should increase by sponsoring an event.

 

2. Event sponsorship can lead directly to sales: A recent survey by the Event Marketing Institute found that 74 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after they were exposed to the business from a branded marketing event.

 

And here is anecdotal evidence: When I first moved to where I live now, I went to an event. One of the sponsors had a food truck there. Mmmm, delicious! We are still eating at their restaurant 15 years later.

 

3. Increased visibility is always good: 99 percent of all businesses are small businesses, but then again, you don’t need to be told you have a lot of competition; you know you do. An additional benefit of sponsoring an event is that it helps you get noticed. And especially in these days of Short Attention Span Theatre, getting noticed is more important yet tougher than ever.

 

Sponsorship can be the answer.

 

There are a lot of people who never heard of your business. But they will if you sponsor an event, and even better – if their first exposure to your business is because you are a sponsor of an event, that impression will likely be a positive one.

 

4. It can help you hit your target market: One of the important things when deciding whether to help sponsor an event is determining if the event caters to your intended demographic. If it does, if you choose wisely, then your sponsorship puts your business directly in the sightline – literally – of your target market, and how great is that?

 

5. Sponsorship can be a great lead generation tool: Sponsoring events should consist of more than just plastering your name on a program. A good sponsorship package should include some sort of lead generation mechanism. It could be

  • An email opt-in form
  • A business card collection system
  • A networking event

 

Whatever the case, sponsorship can and should lead to warm leads.

 

6. Sponsorship can also generate partnership opportunities: By being out there in the community, by being more visible, and by co-branding with the event, you are not only exposing your business to more potential customers, but equally, you are more visible to other businesses and professionals. Who knows what opportunities may come from that? Likely some very good ones.

 

The bottom line is that sponsoring an event doesn’t cost, it pays.

 

Read Next:

Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event by Dhani Jones

How to Host a Successful Event for Your Small Business by Steve Strauss

How Event Sponsorship Can Benefit Your Small Business

How to Be More Effective at a Networking Event

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

President Donald Trump is not the first businessman president. If you study the biographies of the 44 people who served before Trump, you will find we have had many entrepreneurs serve the country’s highest office.

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And so, let’s look at what we might call The Secret Small Business History of the Presidents. While Barack Obama was famously a public employee for most of his adult life, his immediate predecessor George W. Bush had an entrepreneurial streak. And while W’s entrepreneurial career is checkered at best, he did end up hitting one out of the park when his investment in the Texas Rangers baseball team made him a millionaire.

 

Bush began his career in 1979 when he launched Arbusto Energy, an oil exploration company financed with trust fund money, as well as capital from investors. Unfortunately, Arbusto was hit hard by the energy crisis of the late ‘70s and basically went ar-busto.

 

W had much more success when he and his team bought the Texas Rangers in 1989. When the team sold again in 1998, Bush’s $600,000 investment scored him a hefty profit of about $15 million.

 

His dad, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, founded the Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company in 1953, and later, the Zapata Petroleum Corporation. In 1963, Zapata Petroleum merged with Southern Penn Oil to become Pennzoil and Bush became a millionaire.

 

Jimmy Carter’s small business story is impressive. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Carter moved back to the little town of Plains, Georgia and took over the failing family peanut farm. Carter turned that small farm into a multi-million-dollar peanut business of warehouses, shelling plants, industrial farm equipment, and more.

 

Despite the farm’s great success, Carter was almost broke again while in the White House as he had put the farm in a blind trust. Nevertheless, his entrepreneurial skills allowed him to reverse course. He founded the Carter Center, became a best-selling author and an in-demand speaker, and yes, in the process, a millionaire.

 

Before becoming president, Harry Truman was a haberdasher. He also opened his own clothing store in Kansas City after serving in World War I.

 

While Franklin Delano Roosevelt was never an entrepreneur in the traditional sense, he was what we would now call a social entrepreneur. FDR famously transacted polio as an adult. As part of his therapy, Roosevelt traveled to Warm Springs, Georgia for treatment. While he was never cured of the disease, the treatments helped greatly and FDR spent many years raising funds for, and helping to launch, what became known as the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation.

 

Warren G. Harding was quite the small businessperson. When he was 19, Harding bought a newspaper that was about to go under – The Marion Star. Harding became the publisher and turned the failing venture around. The paper soon started to make a tidy profit; so much so in fact that it became the source of Harding’s income for the next several decades.

 

As we all know, Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, but he was also quite the industrious entrepreneur. Lincoln:

  • Opened a general store in 1833 (it failed)
  • Opened his own law firm
  • Obtained United States patent no. 6,469

 

Andrew Jackson made his first fortune buying and selling real estate. He was also one of the founders of Memphis, Tenn.

 

Finally, let’s not forget our first president, George Washington. Before he led the continental army, Washington was a farmer, which, at that time, was among the most common small business endeavors. By the time of his passing, Washington owned five farms. In fact, so entrepreneurial was he that Edward Lengel wrote a book about Washington titled First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity.

 

So yes, you as an entrepreneur are in good company, and who knows, maybe someday you will become president too!

 

Related Content: What 5 U.S. Presidents Can Teach Us About Business

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

As a small business owner, there will likely come a time when you need to plan an event. It could be a big sale, a company-wide get-together, a day-long seminar, or what have you. The question is, how do you do it?

 

Not surprisingly, the devil is in the details. Planning a successful event has everything to do with planning. This can be broken into two main categories:

 

     1. Clarifying your objectives

     2. Scheduling

 

Let’s dig into both:

 

1. Clarifying your objectives: Obviously, you have a good idea about the event you want to put on and why you are doing it. That said, you can better marshal your resources (efforts, finances, etc.) by thinking through what it is you want to get out of the program.

 

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For example, if the goal of your event is to generate immediate sales, then you will need to advertise in such a way and in such places that your message gets out to people most likely to respond. Conversely, if your goal is to build your brand in the community, then you would want to involve community groups in your planning and promotion.

 

Once you are clear on what you want to do and what success will look like, then the real work begins – digging into the nitty-gritty of scheduling the event.

 

2. Event planning checklist: Beginning four months out, you will want to do the following:

 

Four months before the event:

 

  • Set a date. Note, for business events, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are generally tougher sells
  • Establish a budget
  • Appoint a point-person / event coordinator
  • Identify potential partners
  • Compile an invitation list of customers, prospects, sponsors, community and business groups
  • Outline promotional efforts

 

Three months before the event:

 

  • Scout and choose a location. The right location is vital. Are you going for something more casual or more serious? The location sets the tone
  • Reach out to potential co-sponsors
  • Meet with caterers and outline food and beverage needs

 

Two months before the event:

 

  • Share event details with co-sponsors and other partners for their own marketing. Additionally, outline everyone’s duties and your expectations
  • Send out ‘save the date’ notices to your list
  • Order marketing and display materials
  • Order audio-visual equipment (podium, microphones, speakers, etc.)

 

One month before the event:

 

  • Identify potential media interest and send promotional email outlining event details (avoid sending a press release)
  • Send actual invite, including RSVP
  • Launch marketing, including social posts and website updates

 

Two weeks before the event:

 

  • Follow up with media
  • Follow up with partners
  • Continue social media
  • Send reminder emails
  • Give caterer a final head count
  • Event location walkthrough. Confirm it has enough infrastructure (electrical outlets, audiovisual, trashcans, coat checks, etc.)

 

One week before the event:

 

  • Go over event details with your team
  • Assign duties
  • Make name tags, if appropriate
  • Pack needed supplies
  • Double check that you have enough chairs, food ordered, etc.

 

Day of event:

 

  • Arrive early
  • Set up event room

 

After the event:

 

  • Send thank yous
  • Follow-up on leads

 

And if everything goes according to plan, or close to it, start thinking about your next event!

 

DOWNLOAD THIS CHECKLIST

 

Related Content: Tips from a Pro: How to Score a Small Business Touchdown at a Local Event by Dhani Jones

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Happy Father’s Day! As we celebrate the vital role our dads play in our lives, let’s consider the words of wisdom famous entrepreneurs received from their dads:

 

Steve Jobs: “Paint the back of the fence.”

One thing Apple has been known for (at least while Steve Jobs ran the show) is its stunning design and attention to detail. Apparently, Jobs learned that lesson from his father. According to Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson:

 

“One day Paul Jobs and Steve were building a fence. And Paul said, ‘You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect.’”

 

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Richard Branson: “Listen more than you talk.”

Branson grew up in a busy household, where his mom constantly concocted and coached countless entrepreneurial endeavors. But, according to Branson in Forbes, his quieter dad created a balance. The lesson, says Sir Richard?

 

“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”

 

Mark Cuban: “Live young every day.”

Said Cuban to an audience at South by Southwest in 2014:

 

‘My dad is 87 and he says it over and over, ‘Today's the youngest you're ever going to be. You’ve got to live like it. You’ve got to live young every day.’”

 

Meg Whitman: “Be nice.”

“I'll never forget my father telling me that," Whitman told Fortune Magazine. “I had been mean to someone. He said, ‘There is no point in being mean to anyone at any time. You never know who you’re going to meet later in life. And, by the way, you don’t change anything either by being mean.’”

 

Martha Stewart: “You can do anything”

“The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father when I was 12 years old,” Stewart explained to Forbes. “He told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose.

 

“This advice instilled in me a great sense of confidence, and despite the fact that sometimes I was a little nervous, I stepped out and did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. I think it really often is up to the parents to help build confidence in their children. It is a very necessary part of growing up.”

 

Robert Kiyosaki: “Don’t work for money, have money work for you.”

Kiyosaki had a real father, his “poor dad,” and a mentor/father, his “rich dad.” The advice he received from rich dad was so important that Kiyosaki wrote a book about it, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In it, his “rich dad” taught Richard about money, entrepreneurship, and investments.

 

Bill Gates: “Do things outside of your comfort zone.”

“Well, my dad and my mom were great at encouraging me as a kid to do things that I wasn’t good at, to go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer, and I didn’t know why.

 

“At the time, I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities, and doing things outside my comfort zone, and showing me how to stick with things. It was fantastic, and now some of those activities I cherish. They had to stick to it too because I pushed back a lot, but it was fantastic advice.”

 

Thanks dads!

 

Related Content: Bank of America Small Business Podcast

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

There once was a village fisherman who happened upon a great fishing spot in a secluded part of the bay where he lived. This was important for him because fishing was how he fed his family and made a living. For many years thereafter, the fisherman prospered; the fishing was great and the fish he caught were plentiful and big. The fisherman and his family were well fed.

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 5.35.58 PM.png

 

As the years went by however, things at his perfect fishing spot slowly began to change. First, the fish seemed to get tired of the same bait he always used. Sensing this, the fisherman tried something new and changed bait. Soon he returned to some of the same success he had originally found.

 

But then, even with new bait, things slowed down again. Not only was he catching less fish, but the fish he did catch were smaller. He had caught all the easy-to-catch big fish in this part of the bay. The prosperity he had found initially was becoming more and more difficult to replicate.

 

Growing ever more concerned, the fisherman finally sought the advice of a village elder. “What should I do?” the fisherman asked. Said the elder, “Things change. Life changes. Fishing spots change. Everything changes. If you continue to do the same thing time and again – if you don’t change – you will miss out. Life and fish will pass you by.”

 

“But I tried changing bait,” bemoaned the fisherman. “It only worked for a little while. The fish I catch now are so small. I am having a tough time feeding my family.”

 

“If you want to prosper,” said the elder, “you need to fish for bigger fish.”

 

The fisherman thought about what first had worked for him in the beginning, all those years ago. He remembered that he had spent quite a bit of time searching for a sweet spot back then. He had found other spots that were fine, but nothing special. He had continued to search. Then he had discovered his magic spot.

 

Suddenly he knew what he had to do now.

 

The problem wasn’t the fish or the bait, it was him. The next morning he set out again. But rather than be afraid that he wasn’t going to his usual spot to use his usual methods, he found himself invigorated by the challenge.

 

What he realized was that bigger fish lay outside the bay, in deeper waters out in the ocean. He knew that if he was going to find and catch those bigger fish, he would need to fish in unfamiliar waters.

 

So he turned the rudder away from the familiar and headed out to sea. Once there, it took some adjusting. His old fishing tricks didn’t work so well out here. But slowly, day by day, he refined his efforts. He got bigger fishing poles. Stronger line. Better bait.

 

And before long, he began to catch bigger fish. Much bigger fish. Fishing in deeper waters also meant he would not run out of fish to catch. He soon taught his children how to think bigger and look to catch their own big fish. And they did. In time, they too prospered, and in fact, the entire village prospered.

 

The moral of the story? You know the moral of the story.

 

Happy fishing!

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

If you are an online retailer who markets to, and does business with, any customers from Europe, I have some news for you: A significant new privacy law came into effect in Europe (as of May 25, 2018) that applies to you. Similarly, if you’re considering expansion into European countries – even if only for e-commerce – you will need to comply.

 

Passed by the European Union and called the GDPR (for General Data Protection Regulation), the law is intended to protect the privacy rights of all EU citizens.

 

90651103_s.jpgThere are four areas where the law will protect European customers:

 

  • They have a “right to be forgotten” in the case of a data breach
  • There is a quick 72-hour reporting period for such a breach
  • There are strong consumer consent protocols that apply, and
  • Fines for breaches and non-compliance are high

 

Bottom line: If you sell online and have European customers or clients, you must take extra precautions to keep their data secure. The thrust of the law is to protect the privacy of EU citizens, and that means that you, even as an American small business, must adhere. That means if you have a data breach that compromises the privacy of your customers, as happens so often these days, you are subject to the GDPR.

 

What the law demands specifically is that, should your data be breached, you have three days to inform the country in question of the breach, let them know the citizen(s) involved, and offer the opportunity for the citizen to protect their data by being able to move it somewhere else (the “right to be forgotten.”) Failure to comply on your part can result in hefty fines and even a class-action lawsuit.

 

There is one caveat, however. According to Forbes, the protections of the GDPR apply only if you specifically have targeted this customer.

 

“Generic marketing doesn’t count. For example, a Dutch user who Googles and finds an English-language webpage written for U.S. consumers would not be covered under the GDPR. However, if the marketing is in the language of that country and there are references to EU users and customers, then the webpage would be considered targeted marketing and the GDPR will apply.”

 

What You Should Do

 

So, what can you do to protect yourself and the privacy rights and data of your European customers? You must take data protection seriously and protect your business from getting hacked.

 

Here are a few simple ways to do that:

 

1. Update – or get! – anti-virus software. You should consider anti-virus software to be your first line of defense. Unfortunately, a lot of small businesses neglect this software altogether and are therefore vulnerable to some of the most severe security attacks, like ransomware.

 

2. Download from reliable sources. One of the bad guys’ top tricks is to make you download infected software from their scam websites. Be careful about where and what you download.

 

3. Use a secure connection for receiving/transmitting sensitive financial data and orders. Your e-commerce and other vital financial transactions should be done over sites that use either SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security.) You want a URL that begins with “https.” That S stands for “secure.”

 

So, the bottom line on the GDPR is this, and Forbes puts it best, “U.S. companies, especially those with a Web presence, should be paying attention and changing practices now and not waiting to become a headline two years down the road.”

 

Related Content:

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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

We all know it takes a certain kind of person to run a successful business. One must be enterprising, hard-working, resourceful, creative, optimistic and smart, and that's just for starters. Now let's think about what it takes to start and run not only a successful business, but one based on a complex and demanding profession like law.

 

It takes all those traits, and a whole lot more.

 

As you may know if you have spent a little time here on the Small Business Community, I am a non-practicing lawyer. I started out in a big firm in the big city making the big bucks and then went on to open my own law office a few years later. I don't practice anymore because, as I like to joke, “I came to my senses.”

 

While this is a good laugh-line for a speech, the fact is I was good at the business side of that business (hence this gig), while the legal stuff interested me less because, frankly, I wasn't as good at it. As I said, it takes a unique individual to be successful at his or her profession and running the business, too.36497960_s.jpg

 

That's one reason why Scott Snyder of Scott Snyder Law impresses me so much. Scott and I have a lot in common – we both grew up in L.A., we have season tickets to our local NBA team about six rows from each other, and we share a mutual love of Bruce Springsteen (even if Scott's selfie with Bruce beats anything I could boast).

 

But where we diverge is that Scott is a much better and more successful lawyer than I ever was. Not only has his firm thrived for almost 20 years (an accomplishment in and of itself for any business), but Scott has distinguished himself as an excellent attorney.

 

Like many of us, Scott started his business because he wanted to be his own boss. “I didn't want to be subject to the whims of change in management and so I figured it would be better for me in the long haul to start my own firm,” he told me. Corporate America's loss was his clients' gain.

 

Almost 20 years in and his dance card is full with clients who need and appreciate him. As a result, not only has his firm grown, but it has enabled Scott Snyder Law to become an integral member of the community in which we both live. As Scott explained,

 

“One thing I am proud of is that my law practice has served numerous individuals and businesses on a reduced fee or pro-bono basis to help defray their cost of legal services. Additionally, I have often provided my mediation services on a volunteer basis, and I additionally am able to offer my services to local non-profits on a volunteer basis as well.”

 

Great lawyer, great businessperson, community asset – that's an impressive three-fer in anyone's book.

 

So it wasn't surprising when Scott told me that what he loves about the law is that, while of course it pays well, far more important was it allowed him to help people solve problems. “It may sound corny, but I believe we can almost always find a good and fair outcome for everyone concerned, and that is what I am committed to, the win-win outcome. I like being a trusted adviser, and I take that role very seriously.”

 

And isn't that what you would want from your lawyer? A super smart guy who is committed to creating great outcomes and helping out in the community (and who loves Bruce to boot?). Now that's my kind of counsel.

 

Related Article: Fighting is Expensive.  What to do if You Are Sued.

 

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

There was a time, not so long ago, when “going green” was thought to be both exotic and expensive. While CEOs may have liked the cachet that would come with having a greener brand, they were also concerned that “sustainability” might have been a value that they could not really afford.

 

The good news is that, for a variety of reasons, creating a green (or greener) business has become far easier, more affordable, more appreciated and more doable than ever before. The rising tide, literally, is creating a tipping point such that greening the business isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business, too.

 

These days, and on this Earth Day (Sunday, April 22), it turns out that going green doesn’t cost – it pays.

 

Here are some of the best reasons and easiest ways for your business to go green:

 

It’s popular: Between the Paris Accords, weird weather, water shortages and logic, more people than ever want to do their part for the environment. Indeed, according to one recent survey, more than half of all consumers say that it is “very or somewhat important” that the businesses they do business with be environmentally friendly. Additionally, one-third of those surveyed are willing to spend more for green products, and probably not surprisingly, that number is significantly higher among millennials.

 

What this means for your business is that, for instance, you can stock and sell green products, knowing that even though they may cost a bit more, there is significant marketplace demand.

 

After all, Amazon didn’t buy Whole Foods for no reason. 26265775_s.jpg

 

Cost saving: Going green can make a lot of sense for your business. Consider some of the ways that reducing, reusing, and recycling can positively impact your bottom line:

 

      • Recycling means buying less plastic
      • Going paperless equals purchasing less paper
      • Energy Star certified products cost less to run
      • Power timers (used at night, for instance) mean you will use and buy less energy
      • Encouraging employees to take public transit or ride bikes to work can mean less spent on (or reimbursed for) parking, gas and mileage.

 

It’s a morale booster: Increasingly, employees want to work for companies that take their corporate, civic and environmental responsibilities seriously. Creating a sustainable workplace is good for your culture.

 

It’s healthier: According to the Green Business Bureau, there is a 20 percent decrease in number of sick days for companies that promote a healthier workplace.

 

Tax benefits: Some states offer tax credits for businesses that go green. For example, in California a business can get tax credits for:

 

      • Installing insulation, and energy efficient heating and ventilation
      • Use of renewable energy like geothermal, solar and wind
      • Purchasing hybrid and diesel vehicles

 

Additionally, there are numerous “Recycling Zones” throughout the state. These allow businesses operating within these zones to get sales and use tax credits of up to 10 percent.

 

Good PR: Finally, being able to share socially and generally that your business is on the right side of this issue is no small thing. As indicated, it is important to not a few consumers.

 

So, on this Earth Day, remember, you do well by doing good and you can make green by going green.

 

More about going green:

Outlook 2018 – A Transforming World: Earth

How green bonds work: what you need to know

Learn about the Bank of America commitment to environmental sustainability

 

About Steve StraussSteve 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.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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