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General Business

235 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

One industry showing no signs of slowing down during Coronavirus is hardly unexpected: Cyber scamming. Scammers have continued to thrive – flourish even – during and as we work to recover from the pandemic. scams pic.jpg

 

The Better Business Bureau has identified six of the most reported financial scams during this time:

 

    1. Stimulus check scams: As you know, $1,200 was issued to a considerable number of Americans by the  U.S. government, but because the payments rolled out slowly, scammers took advantage quickly. The BBB reports that fake economic impact checks were mailed, promising people that they could get their money faster if they paid a small fee. Little do the unfortunate know, but these checks are not coming from the government, and aren’t even real for that matter. The bad guys use this scam to:

 

  • Cheat you out of money
  • Gain access to your bank account
  • Potentially steal your identity

 

      2. Phishing scams: Although phishing scams have always been popular among con artists, they have gained even more popularity in this work-from-home era.

 

For example, I recently received an email from ‘Uber’ telling me to claim my offer of a free ride. But the email looked suspicious, and when I checked who the email was from, it wasn’t the official Uber website. I didn’t click any links and I’m glad I didn’t. This is a classic phishing scam, and the type the BBB warns against. The bad guys email you, enticing you with some great offer so as to get you to click a bad link which will then infect your computer with a virus.

 

Phishing scams usually entail emails that look (almost) exactly like ones from companies you trust - whether it be your employer, or an organization, or maybe a retailer that you know and like. The point is to get you to let your guard down (because it looks legit) and have you click on links that ultimately compromise your computer, and eventually, your personal information.

 

      3. Government impersonation: A common scam that has been cropping up more and more during the COVID-19 are government impersonator emails, texts and phone calls. Con artists will contact you, claiming to be some government official; they may say they are from the FBI, or the IRS, or even your local police. The point is to scare you into letting your guard down.

 

One common angle is that they mention that that they have an “online coronavirus test” that you need to take. The BBB reports that no test like this exists (of course.) The goal is to get you to go to an infected website, click a bad link, thereby downloading malware onto your computer which allows them to hijack your personal information.

 

       4. Employment scams: This emerging trick is one of the crueler, yet more sophisticated, financial scams that has cropped up during this time. Employment scams seek to get the recently unemployed to cough up money and bank account information through clever - and costly - tricks.

 

It works like this: Scammers will target the unemployed with phony work-from-home job offers. The jobs seem legit, are “easy to do,” and “pay good money,” and the hiring process is “quick and painless.” Too painless to be true.

 

Alert! When you start training for the job, the crooks will ask you to pay fees for the cost of training you. Red flag! Or, you will be asked to wire back “overpayments” or buy expensive equipment. These scams ultimately cost you not only your money, but your time, hope and reputation.

 

        5. The Fake-Cure Scam: During this time of high anxiety, people are of course seeking answers and relief. Scammers have been attempting to provide that by offering “coronavirus cures.” Via phone, text, or email, they will offer special masks, or “medical cures that the government is hiding.”

 

But you know the drill by now: They will also ask you for your credit card information. Of course, the products never arrive and the link you clicked or the information you provided allows for identity theft.

 

Ultimately, there are many scams that have become more popular because of coronavirus fears. But if you keep your eyes peeled and stay alert, you won’t get hurt.

 

 

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 steve strauss headshot.pngAsk/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3373-418524/steve+strauss+headshot.png an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

It may be surprising to learn that of the 30 million businesses in the U.S., at least 80% are one-person operations. And, just like those businesses that have employees, solopreneurs also need help in the era of coronavirus. steve self employed pic.jpg

 

The good news: There is a lot of assistance available.

 

Here is a round-up of the best assistance programs for solopreneurs:

 

The Small Business Administration: The bulk of the news about the SBA recently has to do with its handling of the enormous Payroll Protection Program, but the SBA does and offers much more than that. For example, if you already have a loan through the SBA 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, or microloan programs, you can qualify for payment relief for up to six months. You can find its coronavirus resources and financial assistance page here.

 

  • Additionally, the SBA has created a streamlined application process for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Applicants are eligible for a $10,000 advance ($1,000 per employee) that does not have to be paid back even if you are declined for the EIDL loan. You can apply here.

 

Unemployment: Yes, state unemployment offices are overwhelmed with applications, but that doesn’t mean you should not apply. Due to Covid-19, 1099 contractors now qualify for government assistance. Learn more here.

 

Industry specific grants and programs: Many different industries that employ or represent contract workers have created a plethora of programs:

 

 

As small businesses look to the future it’s important to remember that there are a number of resources available. It’s making sure to stay informed and leverage the ones that are relevant to each business that will help small business owners move forward.

 

 

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 steve strauss headshot.pngAsk an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

As different areas begin to relax stay-at-home orders, there is a lot to consider before fully re-opening your business, both in terms of the customer experience and with regard to employee and customer safety. pexels-photo-3345876.jpg

 

In addition to the thoughts below, always make sure to check on your local guidance for opening back up to the public as well as regularly checking the CSC’s Guidance for Businesses and Workplaces.

 

Here’s what you should consider:

 

1. Remote work policy: If you are like most small businesses, you did not have a telecommuting/remote work policy in place when shelter-at-home orders were enacted. But that needs to change.

 

If you plan to allow some or all of your workforce to continue to work remotely, consider:

 

  • Which jobs will be remote, and which will require an employee’s physical presence? This needs to be spelled out, either in an employment manual or in an employment contract.
  • Can the right to work remotely be altered or revoked?
  • What sort of communication, productivity and reporting will you require?
  • Will the business reimburse employees for work-at-home expenses?
  • Document which positions will not be suited for remote work.

 

If you found telecommuting did not serve your business well, you should document why remote work is not feasible for certain positions. A paper trail is important to show should an employee request the right to work remotely and you have to deny the request.

 

2. Safety and sanitation: For both the safety of your employees and customers, as well as the legal protection of your business, you need procedures and policies with regard to how you will be sanitizing your place of business. What will be cleaned and how often? Who will be responsible? How often will communal spaces (lunchrooms) and shared equipment (computers) be cleaned? What products will be used? How will your cleanliness procedures be documented?

 

Similarly, consider creating hand-washing stations and protocols, as well as having hand sanitizer out for public use.

 

3. Social distancing: This will be with us for a while; how will your company do it? What will your employees need to know in order to create and enforce six-foot distancing? Many businesses, markets for example, are painting six-foot markers for where customers need to stand in the checkout line. Should you institute some visible markers for your employees as well?

 

Also, does your locale require the wearing of masks? Even if not, will you want to require that rule for your staff, for the safety of both themselves and customers?

 

4. Health screening: While you may be tempted to implement a procedure to require regular health checks and temperature screenings for employees, this needs to be done very carefully. There are HIPAA health privacy laws that must be adhered to and as such, any such screening must be done in conjunction with federal and state laws, and your lawyer.

 

For more information, see Updated EEOC COVID-19 Guidance, and note “Employers should remember that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. Therefore, employers should continue to follow the most current information on maintaining workplace safety.”

 

5. Sickness and sick days: Your policies with regard to illness and calling in sick need to be clear and airtight so your staff knows when to call in sick, especially with regard to COVID-19. Obviously, you do not want anyone coming into the office who could even possibly be experiencing coronavirus or have had exposure to someone who has, so this needs to be made clear.

 

Moreover, what process will you use to determine if someone showing possible symptoms needs to be sent home? You may want to consider implementing a mandatory 14-day work from home policy for employees who may have been exposed.

 

In fact, you may want to consider creating a specific stand-alone health policy for coronavirus-related illnesses, time-off, and family leave (even if you are not subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act).

 

6. Documentation: It is especially important to implement processes for documenting everything related to your safety, health, sanitation, and employee efforts. This means you should update employee handbooks and contracts. Post rules and policies publicly and create a physical paper trail. We are in uncharted waters and being extra cautious, and documenting that caution, is the smart move.

 

 

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/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3373-418524/steve+strauss+headshot.png an steve strauss headshot.pngExpert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide materials for informational purposes only, and is not responsible for, and does not guarantee or endorse any of the third-party products or services mentioned.  All third-party logos and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners and are used under license from Steve Strauss.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. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden not only had some of the greatest players ever (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton to name just two) but he got them to play as a beautiful,steve strauss teamwork mentality.jpg harmonic team. Wooden’s UCLA teams won 10 NCAA championships between 1964 and 1975 and from 1971 to 1974, UCLA won 88 consecutive games, still a record in Men’s college basketball.

 

How does Wooden’s success apply to us now, while we work through a crisis in our small businesses? Let me tell you a few of his secrets; ideas you can use for your own business.

 

Start with the coach’s famous Pyramid of Success. Here’s my favorite story about this:

 

On the first day of practice every fall, every UCLA freshman was sat down and taught… how to tie his shoes.

 

According to Wooden, this was necessary for several reasons – basketball is played on your feet – but most importantly, it taught them the importance of little things, and how they add up.

 

“Little things make big things happen,” coach preached.

 

What does this have to do with your business? Everything.

 

All entrepreneurs want to create a great small business. The question is how. Of course, you need to serve the market with a valuable product or service, but just as importantly, you need to assemble and manage a great team that remembers little things make big things happen. 

 

Here’s a simple two-step process that can help you do just that:

 

1. Maintain a Great Culture: What made UCLA basketball so special was not only that Coach Wooden was able to attract top talent, but that he got everyone on the team to buy into the system.

 

Yes, he had some Hall of Fame players, but he had a lot more players who were more mediocre than meteoric. The difference in his teams was that the coach had created a system where even a B recruit could act and look like an A player.

 

In your world this means that you need to create a special culture; one that rewards your people and allows them to do their best work. One where, when they thrive, the entire organization benefits.

 

At this moment in time our cultures are likely going to take a hit. Take time to connect with your employees while they’re home and ask about how they’re doing personally. How are their families? If they’re working remotely find ways to support them. If you’re able to still be paying employees who can’t work from home be as transparent as you can about the future of the company and the steps you’re taking to keep them employed.

 

Additional reading: How to Help Your Employees Focus as They Work from Home

 

If you create the type of business and business culture where employees are treated well, where they feel appreciated, and where they are rewarded for a job well done, you will have created a small business culture that will reap tremendous rewards. Your people will love being part of it and will work hard to make sure you are a success.

 

2. Recruit (And Hang Onto!) Great Talent: Over the years, the best small businesses I have come across have a few things in common and one of them is that the owner knows his or her strengths, brings in people who can fill the gaps, and then lets them do just that.

 

The best small business owners are not micro-managers.

 

To assemble a special team, you need to employ people who fit and buy into your vision. You need people who are smart, savvy, dedicated, and coachable. People who see the big picture but who also are willing to pitch in on any level when times are tough.

 

Then you need to coach them. Show them what you expect and bring out the best in them.

 

This two-step system – recruiting great talent and then giving them an opportunity to shine – is the key to creating a great team, an exceptional team– a team that can work together to keep your business strong through a difficult time.

 

 

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 busteve strauss headshot.pngsiness columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

Mark Matthews is a “big wave” surfer who faces fear and uncertainty with every extreme ride he takes. And he has something important to teach us in this new coronavirus world in which we live. strauss lead pic.jpg

 

You probably have seen people like Mark on TV – those amazing, brave (crazy?), intrepid surfers who ride humungous waves in Hawaii, or Australia, or wherever the endless summer takes them.

 

Mark is profiled at the start of a great new book called, Wild Success: 7 Key Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn from Extreme Adventurers. I recently spoke with the authors, Amy Posey and Kevin Vallely, who make the point that Mark isn’t crazy at all. In fact, as they put it, he is quite rational, and the way he approaches an extreme event like Coronavirus, err, I mean riding a monster wave, is something we can all do.

 

How Mark and other extreme adventurers handle stress is by using a method called “reframing.Instead of focusing on the danger in front of him (riding a wave that could literally kill him), Mark reframes the situation into “less terrifying problems that he can solve now,noted author Amy Posey, a leadership expert in Silicon Valley with an emphasis on neuroscience.

 

So, before heading into the surf, “Mark goes through an intense mental preparation, where he scenario-plans the direst outcomes and plans ahead of time his responses. Mark analyzes what he would do if he can’t breathe, is bleeding, or gets knocked in the head. He prepares and plans for the worst far in advance, as well as right before he goes in the water, and in that way, the scary situation does not seem as scary.  Mark even brings a defibrator in the rescue boat that follows him, just in case.

 

“By cognitively reappraising the danger, Mark anticipates how he will respond to situations and reframes those scenarios into less-terrifying problems he can solve now, according to Posey and Vallely.

 

How to Reappraise Danger in Business

 

Can you use this strategy of “cognitively reappraising danger” in business? Here’s an example from the book:

 

Let’s say you are on a conference call, making a presentation and you flub it a bit. Your boss calls you out in front of everyone. One way to look at that situation is to be embarrassed, or angry, or to assume the worst about your boss’ intent.

 

But a better way, the extreme adventurer way, is to reframe it and “assume a positive intent.” Flip the situation. Maybe your boss was actually trying to help you get better at presenting. Or maybe he simply wanted to make sure the team understood what you were trying to say. The trick is to “reframe the narrative in situations you can’t control. Doing so enables you to reduce the negative emotional impact you feel and improve the clarity of your thinking.”

 

Do you see how valuable just this one simple tactic can be at this scary moment?

 

Chunk down the big fear into manageable ideas. Plan for how to deal with them. See yourself handling and managing them. Instead of feeling like a victim of a pandemic, reframe your thoughts and look for the opportunity for your business, in your ability to lead, in your chance to help your team.

 

As Vallely told me, “Emotions can be contagions too. Your positivity will spread among your team, just as your negativity will. And as a leader, how you act, how you put yourself out there is critical, especially now. If you show confidence you will sow confidence.”

 

The adventurers profiled in the book have a saying: “Nothing is considered a failure in an adventure.” It all is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to have stories to tell (and boy will we have some stories to tell).

 

The end result is that, yes, we are in uncertain, frightening times. But the intrepid adventurer – and the intrepid business leader – can use uncertainty as an opportunity to innovate, reframe, re-label, learn, grow and teach.

 

Cowabunga indeed.

 

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 Askan 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 steve strauss headshot.png

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

 

I want to share with you a simple, yet truly powerful success strategy that can work in any climate – including during a global pandemic.  (And note, this is not hyperbole.)

 

A little background:emai list Steve pic.jpg

 

About six months ago, I was on Facebook and a video ad popped up from a well-known “digital guru.” He explains how he has this great method for being able to – natch – “make millions.”

 

Riiiiiight.

 

But he’s good at this stuff, his video is captivating, and I know from my work that he is actually very successful, so I find myself clicking through.

 

The next thing I know, I‘ve listened to his entire hour and a half webinar, and most surprising to me, I bought his expensive training system.

 

I’m happy to say that it was totally worth my investment.

 

And I want to share the big takeaway with you because, especially right now, it can help you not only stay afloat, but get ahead.

 

Grow your email list. This seems almost basic, like Internet 101, right? Wrong. At least not the way this guy does it.

 

Here’s the deal: What he recommends, and what I have tried and found really works, is to focus a significant amount of your marketing energy, and yes, some of your marketing dollars, on growing your list in a big way. Don’t just dabble, go for it, because the payoff can be huge.

 

A big list gives you big reach.

 

When someone provides their email address, when they “opt-in,” they are giving you permission to contact them again. These are warm leads; people who trust you and want to hear from you. When it’s time for you to sell something, you can email this list and be almost assured that a good number of the people you are pitching will say yes.

 

Take my new guru for example. To watch his hour-and-a-half video, I had to opt-in. But because he gave me real value in that webinar, I was happy I did, and in fact, when he emailed me the next day with his pitch, I was interested.

 

And I was not alone. By advertising on Facebook and getting people to opt-in, he now has a list of more than a half a million people.

 

Think about that for a second.

 

The next time he has a new product, be it some system, or an e-book, or info-product or whatever, with one email he can tell 500,000 potential customers about it. The way he explains it is that this is akin to Starbucks. People like going to Starbucks (or at least they used to.) Millions of people would go there every day. And so, when Starbucks has a new product to launch, they simply roll it out in the stores and those millions learn about it and are inclined to buy it because they trust the company and like its products.

 

For you and me, our expanded email list is our digital storefront. When we have something new to sell, we can roll it out by emailing our list and letting them know about it.

 

Does this really work?

 

Well, the guru recently launched a new podcast and used his list to tell his tribe about it. Within a few weeks, the podcast had become one of the top new shows on iTunes.

 

In my case, I have been using some of his methods and my own business email list recently topped 30,000.

 

There are four steps:

 

1. Create a free offer. You have to give to get. What you give away for free in exchange for the opt-in should be something your potential customers would want – a free ebook, or podcast, free product, a discount, access to a special website, something.

 

2. Let them know about the offer. Do so on your website, on your social channels, and yes, consider buying some pay-per-click ads to promote your offering. The bigger you grow your list, the bigger your reach and the higher your potential sales down the road.

 

3. Offer real value in exchange for the opt-in. The webinar I listened to was chock-full of great info. No fluff. Give away your best stuff. If you do, people will trust and like you and believe what you tell them. You really don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression.

 

4. Don’t abuse the privilege. When people trust you enough to give you their email, they are also trusting that you will not bombard them with spam and selling.

 

Then, when the time comes for you to launch your Carmel Mocha Macchiato and you write to your list, guess what?

 

They are going to want to buy it.

 

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

As you well know, starting and owning your own business is expensive – rent, labor, insurance, etc. It all adds up. And in a time of economic uncertainty like now, cutting back is likely high on your to-do list. black-calculator-near-ballpoint-pen-on-white-printed-paper-53621.jpg

 

The question though is, can you do so without cutting back essential services?

 

Cutting employees might seem like a good way to trim your costs, but the fact is, laying off staff comes with its own set of problems - among them, a possibility for reduced productivity, loss of morale, loss of operational knowledge, and potentially, loss of customers.

 

The point: Business owners often say their most valuable asset is their employees. And most mean it. If that is true, what makes the most sense right now is retaining that asset and getting creative by cutting elsewhere and in unexpected places.

 

Here are three ways you can cut the fat without gutting your business and laying off staff:

 

1. Reduce hours and adjust schedules

 

In Portland, Ore., there is a beloved store called Kitchen Kaboodle. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, business fell off a cliff, and the owners were faced with tough choices: Close or fire almost everyone.

 

In the end, they did neither.

 

Instead, for the next few years, the store went to a shortened schedule, staying open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Ideal, no, but no one was let go and the store eventually came back stronger than ever.

 

So yes, one way to lower payroll costs is simply reducing hours. Offering full-time employees a part-time position is a win-win for everyone when the alternative is not having a job at all. Most people would rather work with their employer than lose all their income.

 

For you, it provides your business full coverage, though with a reduced staff, for a part-time budget. Ultimately, this method also provides that your seasoned staff members can have job security and your customers can have the service you are committed to.

 

Another method for reducing costs is optimization of business hours. If you are open 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, you might not be using your time and money wisely. Instead, have a smaller staff for slower days, and a full staff for the busier times. If some days are not profitable at all, do what Kitchen Kaboodle did and consider closing those days.

 

 

2. Improve operational efficiency

 

The next option is to consider how your business can operate more cost effectively while maintaining - or even improving - its efficiency.

 

This can look a few different ways:

 

  • For one, you should call suppliers and renegotiate your contracts, looking to pay less for your supplies. No doubt that today, vendors will be willing to have that conversation.

 

  • If that doesn’t work, shop around: you never know what other deals might be out there unless you look.

 

  • Efficiency could also take the form of in-house changes. Instead of printing your documents, go paperless. Have people bring their own food; sorry, no free lunch right now.

 

  • Ask your team to suggest places of waste – they will know things you do not.

 

The coronavirus is an opportunity for your business to be hypervigilant in its own practices. In tough times, a little goes a long way, and either renegotiating with your suppliers or reforming in-house policies and behavior can save costs in the long term.

 

3. Think differently

 

Time to get creative. Instead of continuing to use that high-priced marketing consultant, consider bringing marketing and advertising in-house. Find out who on your team best knows social media and unleash their creative powers. This option will cut costs while still providing your business some much needed marketing muscle.

 

Or what about that basement space you’re using to store old items? Instead of letting the space go to waste, perhaps try to clean it and sublet it out to another business who could use the discounted space.

 

Bottom line: The coronavirus will go away and when that happens, you will be glad you kept the band together to make some new, beautiful music when the time comes.

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Asksteve strauss headshot.png an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3359-412423/steve+strauss+headshot.png

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2020 Bank of America Corporation

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

 

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

 

The Small Business Administration

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


Additional Funding Resources

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

 

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

 

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

 

State and Local Resources

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The secret is micro-targeting.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here is how you can join the online advertising party:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Asksteve strauss headshot.png an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss./servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3359-412423/steve+strauss+headshot.png

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

Pop quiz!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • Meet in person and sell.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And then do it some more.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How then to create that personal brand?

 

Here’s how.

 

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Of course you would.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

3 Tips to Get Started

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Now, why is that?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Hence, a beer ad about organic farming.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here’s how to choose wisely:

 

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

 

  • Resonates with your customers,

 

  • Dovetails with your brand

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

You have to create a great personal brand.

 

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

 

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

 

  • Gives you added credibility

 

  • Keeps you top of mind

 

  • Results in consistent business

 

  • Ups your income potential

 

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

 

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

 

So, how do you create that valuable personal brand?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

                                                                                                     

 

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

 

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

 

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert /servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3352-408614/Steve%2BStrauss%2BHeadshot%2BSBC.pngcolumn is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.steve strauss headshot.png

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

– Phil Connors (Bill Murray), Groundhog Day

 

aubrey-rose-odom-uxUUENpp01I-unsplash.jpg

 

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

 

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

 

You have to learn your lessons.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Until it doesn’t.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  • That room full of stuff
  • That perpetually messy desk

 

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

 

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

 

An aging culprit could be:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

A love of budgeting.

 

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

 

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

 

  • Budgets constrict
  • Budgets are complicated
  • Budgets are boring

 

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

 

It’s true.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

How to Make a Budget

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Voila, you just created a budget.

 

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

 

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

 

About Steve Strauss

 

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

 

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

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

 

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