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262 Posts authored by: Touchpoint

By Robert Lerose.

 

Reviews_Body.jpgThe new year is right around the corner, holding out the promise of a fresh start for every small business. Many owners wisely make the time now to assess how their business performed in 2016, identifying clear successes as well as areas for improvement, before they set their goals and plans for 2017.

 

Megan Sullivan, a contributing writer to the Intuit QuickBooks blog, pinpoints these critical areas that every year-end business review should cover.

 

1. Accounting

For many business owners, accounting issues are the central focus of their assessment process. You should print out a complete set of financial reports, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. This is also a good time to review your tax strategies and make any necessary adjustments. Depending on the scope of your operations, you may want to consult with an accountant.

 

"Cash flow is the best way to tell how your money was spent throughout the year," Sullivan says. Pay particular attention to these three things: operating activities (revenue and expenses), investing activities (assets purchased and assets sold), and financial activities (loans and repayments).

 

Go through your vendor list and verify that the contact information is accurate and up-to-date. Review their performance and consider replacing any vendors that have not given you the best value for your money.

 

Try to collect on all unpaid invoices to start the year with a clean slate.

 

2. Information technology

Back up all your data and make sure that your files are secure. Review your virus protection, malware, and spyware safeguards.

 

Consider downloading reports or files, especially if they're in a cloud-based system. "The golden rule for data backup is 2:1. That is, create two separate digital copies, stored in two separate locations, plus one offline copy (preferably stored somewhere else)," Sullivan explains.

 

Check how you name your files to make sure that the protocols are clear and work well. "Adopting file-naming conventions is especially important for businesses that share servers that can be accessed by multiple employees," Sullivan says.

 

Reviews_PQ.jpg3. Human resources

Decide whether you will hand out any bonuses at the end of the year or in January. The timing decision will affect your profit reporting and tax strategy. 

 

Evaluate your staffing to see if you'll need to hire, or let go, workers, both fulltime and part-time. Budget accordingly.

 

Assemble a list of the accomplishments of your business over the past year and share it with your team. Be sure to recognize any outstanding contributors or team members.

 

4. General business

Check your inventory to make sure it tallies with your records. Make adjustments up or down depending on your future plans.

 

Use the feedback from your team and the results of your financial analysis to see how close you came to achieving your goals in 2016. Use that experience to set new goals for the coming year and, just as importantly, a plan for how you will achieve them.

 

Go through every page of your website to see what has to be updated or changed. Check every link and your "contact us" information to make sure that they work properly and smoothly for web visitors.

 

Attending to even a few of these year-end review tasks can put you on the road to making 2017 a better, productive, and more profitable year.

 

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

CharityRequests_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

‘Tis the season for giving, and for most small business owners, that means ‘it’s the season for charity requests. Small businesses want to make a difference in their community, so the most challenging aspect typically isn’t deciding whether to give, it’s deciding where to direct your dollars.

 

Here are four questions that can help you evaluate where to place your charitable giving dollars this holiday season:

 

1. Is it a cause your employees can get behind?

Employees might be more willing to participate if they have helped select the charity. “Consider having the owner narrow the requests to a few charities and have them presented to the employees, who can then vote on which organization to support,” says Jenelle Clinton, a fundraising consultant in Portland, Oregon. A positive byproduct, she adds, is that even charities that don’t end up receiving the company donation may benefit by sharing their story with employees who might choose to give on their own.

 

You can also give preference to charities that have a logical connection to your employee or customer base. For example, if an employee is undergoing cancer treatment or has a child with special needs, raising money for a related group can make them feel supported. Or find a group that aligns with your business model. A real estate firm might work with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, or a food processer could donate to a hunger-related charity. 

 

“Articulate your firm’s authentic philanthropic passions, and look for charitable causes that align with your company’s values and product or services,” says Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing for Charity Navigator, an online charity evaluator.

 

CharityRequests_PQ.jpg2. Have you verified the organization is legitimate?

Look for financially strong, accountable and transparent charities, says Miniutti. Research the financial health of charities at websites like Charity Navigator or GuideStar and learn about a charity’s accomplishments, goals, and challenges by reviewing its own website or talking with staff, suggests Miniutti. “They should be able to tell you about the quality and depth of their results, not just the number of activities or people served.”

 

3. Can you donate in ways other than money?

“The typical corporation gives away one percent of its pre-tax profits, a rule of thumb that smaller businesses can also use to guide their philanthropic pursuits,” says Miniutti. However, she suggests using that as a starting point and then seeing if you can increase that percentage by augmenting your cash gifts with product or service donations, known as “in-kind donations.”

 

A clothing company might gift coats to a kids’ charity, or an advertising or graphic design firm could provide services to a nonprofit that needs them, suggests Clinton. Another option is to involve employees as volunteers. If your charity of choice is a food bank, employees can help sort donated goods or assemble food boxes.

 

4. Is there an opportunity for an ongoing relationship?

Donating at the holidays feels good, but charities need support all year long. That’s why it might be wise to choose a cause that you can align with in ways other than just making a one-time, fourth-quarter gift, suggests Clinton. A children’s charity might need money for holiday gifts now, but might welcome employees holding a school supply drive in the fall or volunteering with an after-school “buddy program.” By becoming more entwined with a charity, you’ll foster stronger bonds that can increase support and interest among your employees and customers.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

According to Giving USA Foundation, American charitable donations broke a record in 2015—more than $373 billion, including donations from the business sector. As we enter the holiday season, it’s not surprising that the number of charitable appeals will surge. It’s also not uncommon that small business owners want to make sure that their donations are used wisely and go directly to the causes they support. Before you reach for your checkbook or credit card, check out the following insights to help guide your decision-making.

 

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Sources:
1: Charitable Giving Statistics. National Philanthropic Trust. https://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics/
2: Small Business Philanthropy on the Rise—New Survey Data. Alignable. December 18, 2015. https://www.alignable.com/insights/small-business-philanthropy-on-the-rise
3: Charitable Giving: How to evaluate and support good causes. Small Business Online Community. November 20, 2015. https://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/sales-marketing/blog/2015/11/20/charitable-giving-how-to-evaluate-and-support-good-causes
4: Questions To Ask Charities Before Donating. Charity Navigator Blog. August 2, 2016. http://blog.charitynavigator.org/2016/08/questions-to-ask-charities-before.html
5: What You Need to Know to Donate Safely Online. Charity Watch. https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-articles/what-you-need-to-know-to-donate-safely-online/71
6: Topic 506—Charitable Contributions. IRS. July 12, 2016. https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only.
Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license.
The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc.
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. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Cathie Ericson.

 

BizApps_Body.jpgA recent study by a Silicon Valley analyst found that the average app loses 77 percent of its users a mere three days after it’s installed, with only 5 percent of users continuing to use an app three months later.

So which business apps are deserving of the precious real estate on your phone screen? Beyond the basics such as Evernote and project coordination apps like Asana, Basecamp, and Slackhere are five apps we think will earn their keep on your smart phone today, and down the road. (All available for iOS and Android.)

Pocket: (Free) It happens all the time: you’re clicking through emails and come across a story you want to read or a TED Talk you want to watch, but don’t have time. Just stick it in your “Pocket” to read at your leisure. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s easy to access. Whenever you click to save a link, it includes Pocket as one of your choices, just like email, Facebook or Twitter. You can then access your saved items later across devices, even if you’re not on WiFi. A bonus is the twice-weekly email they send with articles other users have liked.

Toggl: (From $10 to $59 per user, per month) Wait, you spent how long mindlessly surfing the web? Well, for better or for worse, using this app means that you’ll know exactly where your time is spent. As a business owner, you’ll love how it generates reports of billable BizApps_PQ.jpgtime for you and your whole team, easily created into client reports and/or compared with historical data. You can also color code projects and give different billable rates to different projects and tasks.

TinyScan: (Free for eight scans; $4.99 for unlimited scans and cloud storage) Never carry around a sheaf of receipts and notes again. TinyScan allows you to scan receipts, business cards, photos and more as images or PDFs that you can name and organize into folders. Once scanned, you can send them via email or to a Dropbox, Evernote or Google Drive account.

Hotel Tonight: (Free) Business travel can be incredibly unpredictable, and sometimes you’ll find that your meeting ran long or your flight was delayed. There you are, stuck in a city with nowhere to stay. That’s when this app can make your whole day (or night) by finding you available nearby rooms, typically at great prices. And you don’t have to use it only for “tonight” of course; booking a week ahead is available as well.

App in the Air (Free with upgrades available): Road warriors gravitate to anything that can make their airport life easier and you’ve found it with App in the Air. It shows both your flight history and your upcoming flights, complete with check-in and boarding times and detailed airport maps. It also tracks your reward miles so you can figure out when you can go somewhere fun for free. Now that’s good business. 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Heather Johnson.

 

EntrepreneurialActivity_Body.jpgMore people than ever have decided now is the time to launch a small business, according to a new survey.

 

The 2016 Kauffman Index, a detailed analysis of entrepreneurship released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, reports more than half of U.S. states and large metro areas saw an uptick in entrepreneurial activity over the past year.

 

National picture

Thirty states saw higher levels of total new business activity compared with 2015. Of the 40 largest metro areas, 23 saw an increase in new business activity.

 

The past two years of growth come after a five-year downward trend brought on by the recession.  Startups rebounded in 2015 by about 10 percent—the largest year-over-year increase in the past 20 years. In 2016, that figure rose again by about eight percent.

 

New opportunities

The Kauffman Index’s opportunity share data refer to the percent of new entrepreneurs that started businesses because they saw market opportunities. The increase in opportunity share for 2016 indicates a positive environment for small business.

 

The figure, which measures the percent of new entrepreneurs who were not unemployed when they started their businesses, rose from about 79.5 percent in 2015 to 84 percent in 2016. The numbers indicate small business owners are gaining confidence to start new ventures.

 

State rankings

Texas, Florida, California, and New York held the highest entrepreneurial activity of the 25 larger states. Despite the oil and gas industry downturn, Texas moved up two places to claim the top spot, with an entrepreneur rate (percentage of entrepreneurs per month for every 100,000 adults) of .39 percent.

 

Florida, the eighth most densely populated state in the U.S., has the second-highest startup density (number of new startups for every 1,000) at 101.8. It placed second on the state rankings.

 

EntrepreneurialActivity_PQ.jpgOf the smaller states, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Oklahoma topped the list. Montana and Nevada reclaimed their first and second place positions, respectively, from last year, while Wyoming moved up from fifth place in 2015 to third place in 2016.

 

With its strong energy and healthcare sectors, Oklahoma rose from number eight to number four. According to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, Oklahoma small businesses employed 52.8 of its private workforce in 2016.

 

Metro rankings

Austin, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas boasted the highest startup activity in Kauffman’s metro rankings. With the wave of high-tech innovators moving to San Francisco, the city by the Bay jumped from number nine to number four. Orlando, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Detroit also saw impressive shifts up.

 

Orlando, Florida, made the most significant move in startup activity, rising from 33 to 21. Its home state’s diverse workforce, solid infrastructure, and easy global access makes it one of the most attractive areas for small business. The U.S. Census Bureau ranked the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area number one for population and job growth in 2015.

 

The 2016 Kauffman Index provides city and state agencies and organizations insights they can use to build stronger small business communities. “All entrepreneurship is local,” Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said in the Kauffman report’s forward. “And the policymakers, entrepreneurship supporters and communities that overlook this reality do so at their own peril.”

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Jennifer Shaheen.

OnlineSelling_Body.jpgAs the holiday shopping season draws ever nearer, it’s important for business owners to understand what today’s shoppers are looking for, both online and when they visit brick and mortar stores. While product and pricing remain important, these factors are only part of the equation: it’s a superior shopping experience that generates online sales. Here are some of the features that are attractive to today’s shoppers:

Make shopping fun
Pyramid Management Group, which operates one of the largest shopping mall groups in the country, has been aggressively adding entertainment-oriented businesses like indoor golf driving ranges and skydiving simulators to its offerings. They’ve found that people are spending more time and money in the mall as a result. This parallels what’s happening online, where brands that deliver the most entertaining experience via their website and social media are enjoying the best sales.

Don’t just sell, entertain
Lush is one of the fastest growing cosmetic retailers, with 956 stores worldwide. Much of the credit for the brand’s exponential rate of growth goes to the role storytelling plays in their digital marketing strategy. On the website, seasonal content, including both articles and videos, appears on the same page with related merchandise. Blog content appears throughout the customer’s shopping journey, ensuring that buyers have an opportunity to read or watch additional material in unexpected locations, such as a product detail page.

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Go the extra step Customers want to enjoy their shopping experience. This means they want to be excited about the items they buy. Food 52, an extremely popular cooking and entertainment website, generates retail excitement by presenting products with appealing recipes, care notes, and details about the cookware’s unique appeal. The cross-merchandising works the other way around as well: among the related links shown on a recipe page will be links to similar dishes and the cookware needed to start cooking right away.

Stay connected to the customer
In the customer’s mind, a purchase isn’t completed until they actually receive the products they’ve ordered online. Brandable mailers—which include shipping cartons, packaging materials and mailing supplies unique to a specific company—are becoming increasingly popular among smaller retailers who are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from Amazon and Walmart.com. Unboxing videos, created and shared by customers opening their packages, are so popular that they’re considered a YouTube institution; the trend has begun to spread to other social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat. With this in mind, it’s vital that the online retailer ensures their fulfillment processes are as high-touch and satisfying as the experience provided in store.

Keep it fresh
Perhaps the most important aspect of an entertaining online shopping experience is that it’s continually fresh, with visitors finding new content on a regular basis. This ongoing need for new material has led retailers to experiment with various video angles, lighting effects, and other ways of presenting their products and content. It’s important to bear in mind that today’s customer is not looking for Madison Avenue-type merchandising every time they pick up their smartphone. Jill Byron, senior vice president of marketing for Mode Media recommends encouraging customers, professional creators and experts to communicate their love or need for your brand in their own words and style. Having authentic, appealing content appearing regularly is the most important thing retailers can do to create the essential online experience customers are looking for.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

CauseMarketing_Body.jpgBy Robert Lerose.

 

A small business can attract customers and also do some good locally or nationwide with cause marketing. Cause marketing is generally defined as the close alignment of a for-profit business with a non-profit entity for an altruistic or humanitarian goal. For example, General Mills donated 10 cents to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation every time a pink lid from its brand of Yoplait yogurt was sent in. The campaign, which ran from 1998 through 2014, raised more than $35 million. 

 

Such mutual cooperation can impact a business in practical ways. One study on cause marketing found that 72 percent of people surveyed would recommend a brand that supported a cause.

 

Zimmer Radio & Marketing Group, a Columbia, Missouri-based communications company, has identified these benefits to small businesses of participating in a cause marketing campaign.

 

1. Boosts your brand image

A business that aligns itself with a good cause will often see their brand image elevated in the eyes of their customers and potentially to prospects outside the business's neighborhood. Consumers think favorably of businesses that take part in activities that go beyond just selling a product or service.

 

CauseMarketing_PQ.jpg2. Attracts more customers

When your business supports a good cause, you will likely generate more media coverage—and attract more customers. Consumers are willing to demonstrate their commitment to you and your cause with their wallets. A Nielsen survey on corporate social responsibility found that 42 percent of people surveyed in North America would be "willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact."

 

3. Recruits and retains employees

Supporting good causes makes a difference to your current employees as well as to future job seekers, leading to a deeper loyalty to your business. Millennials in the 18-to-34 age bracket are particularly drawn to businesses that demonstrate a genuine commitment to cause marketing.

 

4. Gives you access to new audiences

Even if the cause you align yourself with is not perfectly suited to the interests of your target audience, your business can still come out ahead. You will be able to reach new kinds of consumers who might not have been moved before through your ordinary marketing methods.

 

5. Supplements your sales

Studies show that consumers are highly likely to buy products and services from businesses that support good causes over those that don't, all other things being equal. The "feel good" sensation that customers get from helping you support a cause they believe in can lead to a rosier bottom line.

 

The evidence seems clear that cause marketing can not only contribute to a community, but can also burnish your sales, employee, and brand potential.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

By Erin O'Donnell.

 

BestCities_Body.jpgIf you're a woman starting or running a business, Tennessee is the place to be.

 

Earlier this year, the online credit monitoring website WalletHub released its study of the best and worst cities for women business owners. Three of the Volunteer State's metro areas ranked in the top five, including Nashville at the No. 1 spot. Chattanooga was in second place, and Memphis was in fourth. (Knoxville even made a good showing at No. 15.)

 

Rounding out the top five were Columbus, Ohio, in third place and Milwaukee, Wis., in fifth.

 

A WalletHub analyst noted how the state of Tennessee is prioritizing helping female entrepreneurs and improving their access to capital and other resources. There are nine small-business incubators in the state that are women-focused, which is more incubators than many states have in total. And these organizations are connecting women with investors and mentors that they may not otherwise reach.

 

In 2015, Tennessee was also chosen as one of only six locations for new Women’s Business Centers, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

 

The WalletHub survey looked at 10 key metrics to make the rankings, three of which were weighted most heavily:

  • Overall friendliness toward new business: Includes access to financing, office space availability, and labor costs.
  • Female entrepreneurship: How prevalent is female entrepreneurship in the area? Looks at the percentage of women-owned businesses, and their revenue and growth.
  • Business climate for women: Looks at gender inequality, such as the size of the wage gap between genders, and conditions for working mothers.

 

Here are a few more factors that propelled these cities to the top five:

 

BestCities_PQ.jpgNashville, Tenn.: The Music City has the third highest average revenue of women-owned businesses out of the 100 metro areas surveyed, and it had the best female entrepreneurship rank out of the top five cities. It's home to entrepreneurs such as Sarah Bellos, founder of Stony Creek Colors, which makes plant-based dyes for the textile industry to reduce water pollution from petroleum-based dyes. By 2015, Bellos had raised more than half a million dollars. She's an alumna of the Launch Tennessee incubator, a public-private partnership; about one-third of LaunchTN's recent masterclass graduates are female founders.

 

Chattanooga, Tenn.: Tennessee's fourth-largest city is home of the Jump Fund, which is the Southeast’s only female-focused angel fund. The fund's female investors put capital into early-stage companies led by women. One company they backed was Feetz, which makes custom shoes using 3-D printers. Founder Lucy Beard moved to Chattanooga from Silicon Valley. In the WalletHub survey, Chattanooga also ranked as the second most new-business-friendly metro area in the country (Tulsa was first).

 

Columbus, Ohio: Columbus ranked well in both female entrepreneurship and friendliness to new businesses. It's home to a handful of women-focused business centers, including the nonprofit Women’s Small Business Accelerator, which offers affordable office space to women along with peer-to-peer mentoring and funding resources. Thumbtack.com also lauded the city for its ease of starting a new business. And the suburb of Dublin was recognized by data-analysis firm GoodCall as the second-best city for women entrepreneurs to find "a healthy economy, a stable job market, and support from the local community and like-minded businesswomen."

 

Memphis, Tenn.: From 2007 to 2012, Memphis had the highest growth in female-owned businesses—116 percent—among the nation’s 25 largest cities, according to New York City think tank The Center for an Urban Future. Most, however, don't have paid employees, and the city's economic leaders are working with accelerators to change that and move toward female-owned firms that create jobs. WalletHub also found Memphis nearly as friendly to new businesses as its neighbor Chattanooga, ranking fourth overall.

 

Milwaukee, Wis.: The second best business climate for women, according to WalletHub, is in this midwestern city. It helps that Wisconsin ranked as a top state (seventh overall) for working mothers in another WalletHub survey, with good marks for work-life balance and childcare. Women-owned firms in Milwaukee are also attracting more investment. In July, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.  was one of only 15 organizations nationwide to land a $1.1 million private grant to help diverse-owned small businesses.

 

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

By Heather R. Johnson.GettingPaid_Body.jpg

 

Late payments aren’t just frustrating for a small business, they can seriously disrupt cash flow. To ensure prompt payment, follow these invoicing and collections tips:

 

1. Get it in writing

Having a signed agreement from your client that specifies invoicing terms and pricing will prevent future complications, says Mari Ann Snow, owner of small business consulting firm Sophaya. Determine the client’s billing schedule in advance and find out what information it needs for processing. Will the client need a purchase order or will an invoice number suffice? Does it need to set up your business as an approved vendor?

 

2. Invoice promptly

No matter how packed your to-do list, submit invoices immediately after or as you supply products and services. The sooner you invoice, the sooner you’ll get paid. Before you submit the first invoice to a new client, learn its processing system. If you know that the business only issues payments twice a month, you can be sure to invoice well before those dates.

 

3. Consider early payment discounts

If your business can’t wait 30 days for payment, offer a one- to two-percent early payment discount. Because this option costs you money, only extend the discount when you really need the funds; for example, for a major equipment purchase or during a slow period. Be wary, however, of clients that take the discount and still wait to pay. “If you know the client is reputable and pays on time, a discount may benefit your business,” says Steven Friedman, senior vice

president, business and advisory brokerage, for Reichel Realty & Investments, Inc. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

 

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4. Adopt a late fee policy

Include your late fee policy in client contracts and on invoices. “Clients will understand that they need to pay the invoice on time or they’ll get hit with late fees,” says Friedman. Whether you charge two percent per month or 18 percent annually, enforce the policy consistently. “It’s easier to reverse a late fee than it is to collect fees later on,” Friedman says.

 

5. Accept online payments

In our increasingly paperless, cashless society, more small businesses choose to make and receive payments online. Most banks and some financial software services allow customers to receive Automated Clearing House (ACH) and credit card payments. The online option means faster payment for you and an easy process for the client. Many software solutions also let you send and track invoices, which helps you manage receivables more efficiently.

 

6. Follow up

Friedman tells businesses to check in with clients at least two weeks before an invoice due date. That way, you can correct any problems or resend the invoice if they didn’t receive it. Soon after the due date, follow up with a polite inquiry. “If the client knows you’re going to call, they will put you on the top of the list,” says Friedman.

 

An efficient receivables process is a key component to maintaining positive cash flow. With friendly communication and an organized invoicing policy, you’ll spend less time chasing down the money and more time making it.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

SBSpotlight_DestinationAthlete_Body.jpgIn our latest installment of the Small Business Community’s spotlight feature, we meet Doug Dickison, founder and chairman of Destination Athlete, a company that offers products and services to youth and high school athletes. In a recent interview, Doug speaks about when he came up with the idea for his company, how his former career at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) helped lay the groundwork, and why he feels Destination Athlete is helping to reshape the youth sports market.

 

In 2006, Doug Dickison was living with his wife and family in Hunterdon County, in western New Jersey. He was well established in a 20-year career as a senior executive with Johnson & Johnson, charged with creating a new commercial business platform for the pharmaceutical and consumer products giant.

 

At night, however, he was deeply involved in coaching youth sports in his town. At the time, his son was playing football and his daughter was on her school’s field hockey team. As Dickison went about attending to all the things a coach is responsible for—ordering team uniforms and equipment, working with the players, and managing the logistics of game schedules—he became increasingly frustrated. “I really enjoyed coaching and connecting with the community, but I knew there had to a better way of doing things,” he says.

 

That’s when the idea for Destination Athlete came into focus. From Dickison’s vantage point as a coach there were three major problems with youth sports. For starters, he says the market was huge (more than 60 million boys and girls play sports), but wildly fragmented. “You had to deal with anywhere from three to seven different vendors just to get the uniforms, equipment, and trophies you needed,” he says. “It was tremendously time-consuming.” Customer service was nearly non-existent, and perhaps worst of all in Dickison’s eyes, there was more of a focus on the sport rather than the athlete playing it.

 

As he began to sketch out his ideas for improvement, Dickison realized he had the opportunity to radically change the youth sports market. “It was an industry ripe for disruptive innovation,” he says. He spent the next two years putting together a business plan, researching the various vendors in the space, and looking for models of exemplary customer service (retailer Nordstrom ranked high with him.) Rather than resign completely from J&J, Dickison requested a part-time schedule in 2007 in order to save enough money for the launch. “It was one of those things when you start having a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch,” he says.

 

On July 14, 2008, Destination Athlete began as the one-source solution for the youth sports market. To get the word out, Dickison began visiting with high school athletic directors, commissioners of recreation leagues, and anyone else in Hunterdon County tasked with running a youth sport or high school team. By ordering from Destination Athlete, he told them, they would have access to over 200 vendors of team apparel, uniforms, equipment, and more, from one site. The goods would be shipped directly to the person in charge of the team on time and in the right quantities. “The business went viral very fast,” Dickison says. “We did minimal advertising. It was really word of mouth and doing more business with each customer.”

 

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One of the lessons that Dickson says he took from his time at J&J was how to manage—and plan for—growth. In the case of Destination Athlete, he believed the company could work on a national level, but felt that building an army of sales reps was not the most effective or efficient way to grow. Instead, he chose franchising. “There were a lot of compelling studies that showed that a franchisee is 400% more effective than a company’s best employees for the simple fact that they have skin in the game,” he says. “Plus, I wanted people to be able to share in our success and there’s no better way to do that than to be an owner of something.”

 

Today, the company has 30 franchisees in eight states. Dickison designed the business so that it could be low cost (a Destination Athlete franchise starts at $20,000) and home-based. And like all franchises, it needed to be turnkey, with a robust vendor network, solid training, and responsive franchisee support. “We didn’t even advertise that we offered franchises until last year because we wanted to make sure all our systems were in place and ready to go,” he adds. His patience paid off. In January, Entrepreneur magazine named Destination Athlete to its list of the 500 best franchises under $50,000.

 

Since starting, the company has also added services that help teams with fundraising as well as Complete Athlete 360, a performance platform that focuses on nutrition and conditioning for individual athletes and teams, an area often overlooked in youth sports. With 10 full-time employees, Dickison says the company’s structure can support up to 50 franchises before it needs to hire additional talent.

 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Dickison’s experience as a small business owner is his belief in the business. When he launched Destination Athlete, the country was in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. “Plenty of people told me all the reasons why this business wasn’t going to succeed,” he says. He never let the naysayers get to him, and not just because he had a passion for the business. “Passion is good for about the first 90 days,” Dickison says. “After than you have to have a good business plan and a complete understanding of the economics of the market you’re going after. I spent two years planning this business before launching it. I certainly took the time to do my homework.”

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

GreatLogo_Body.jpgBy Cathie Ericson.

 

McDonald’s golden arches. Coca-Cola’s script. Nike’s swoosh. Each of these logos is synonymous with its company name, no other identifier needed. Says Laura Wallis, an online marketing consultant at Webnavigatorgal.com: “A logo is an extension of your branding, and as the key image of your business, it sets the tone for who you are as a company.” Here are five key elements a small business owners should consider when developing a logo:

 

1. Appropriate for your audience

You want your logo to speak to your target market, to let them know your company is for them, says Jessica Lyon, senior designer at Pivot Group, a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Portland, Ore. One exercise she recommends is attributing descriptive adjectives to your key audience and comparing them to the qualities of your logo. For example, a retailer primarily serving tween girls might say its target market is youthful, trendsetting, playful, creative and feminine. “If you compare those qualities to their logo, it would be fair to say they match up well,” says Lyon.

 

2. Thoughtful color choice

Limit the logo to three or fewer colors for design simplicity, Lyon suggests. Also, consider the associations behind color choices. “There are basic attributes we ascribe to most colors, and we’ve learned to make assumptions based on them,” says Lyon. For example, red is associated with passion and power, and blue with peace and loyalty. “It can be helpful to use those complex psychological associations to your advantage when choosing colors for your brand and logo,” she says. If your logo uses more than one hue, make sure they work well together.

 

GreatLogo_PQ.jpg3. Reproducible/functional

The logo should work well in color versions as well as black-and-white, and should be usable in any format and size. “With the advent of mobile, it's very important to test how a logo will look online in thumbnail size,” Wallis says, noting that logos are now consistently viewed at a much smaller size than when they were primarily used in print advertising or on signs.

 

4. Fresh

“Even well-designed logos can look out-of-date eventually,” Lyon says.  So although you may have a design you love, consider updating it occasionally to keep up with visual trends, without being so trendy that it quickly becomes obsolete. A great example of a recent logo refresh is Google, which updated its typeface and other elements.

 

5. Professionally designed

Feeling overwhelmed by the elements described above? Most small business owners quickly discover that professional design assistance can make all the difference. “We often work with clients who have tried to develop a logo too quickly and have moved forward with design work without fully considering their ideal audience and how they can differentiate their company in the marketplace,” Wallis says. “I see so many logos that have been designed by the brother of someone in the accounting department, and it usually doesn’t go well,” adds Lyon. “A professional can apply overall design principals and make sure the result is both functional and aesthetically pleasing,” she says.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

MultipleLocations_Body.jpgBy Erin O'Donnell.

 

When your small business expands beyond its original location, consistency and communication are key to continued success. We spoke with Los Angeles-based management consultant Ray McKenzie, founder of Red Beach Advisors, about the best practices for managing a small business with multiple locations.

 

Duplicate success

McKenzie says the first thing a business needs to do before it expands is to determine what already works, and make that the template. In addition, small business owners must be clear on their company culture so that they can duplicate it easily. "They need to make sure that whatever location they branch out to or build, it needs to be exactly like the one they've been successful with so far," McKenzie says. "Use the formula that works. Have a concrete mission, values, and culture."

 

Use consistent systems and processes

And, make sure those processes work for the remote locations. If you have a cabinet full of physical customer files, how will your satellite managers access them? If your business is not already using a digital system for filing, orders, invoices, and the like, it's time to adopt new technology. Then, train all employees to use them the same way. McKenzie says to make sure all managers are reporting on the same metrics at the same intervals. That way, you as the owner or founder can get an overview of the company quickly and make intelligent comparisons about performance.

 

MultipleLocations_PQ.jpgBe present

High touch is critical in the beginning. When your new locations launch, McKenzie says it's important for owners or founders to spend at least three days in person with the new manager and staff. While getting everyone up to speed on your systems and processes, you are also infusing them with your energy and culture, he adds. Going forward, small business owners must be prepared to spend more time with satellite locations than at headquarters. If that gives you pause, it could be a red flag. "You don't ever want to expand if you don't have the home office running smoothly," McKenzie says.

 

Standardize reporting

Plan a weekly one-on-one meeting with each location manager, McKenzie recommends, to assess performance. Then have a meeting or call with all site managers at least once a week. This will give you a chance to give each location individual attention and allow them to discuss common concerns as a group. Be sure to give them clear guidelines on the types of information you want to know: sales reports, client growth or loss, progress on goals and projections, staff issues, customer feedback, and so on. And make sure all managers follow the same standards for their reports. Cloud CRM services such as Salesforce or Domo, or even QuickBooks, can help streamline this, McKenzie suggests.

 

Remain accessible and supportive

Hire managers you can trust with the day-to-day details and resist any urge to micromanage. But make sure they have direct access to you as the business owner whenever they need it, and communicate this clearly. "You can pass along energy from headquarters to the satellite offices," McKenzie says. "They're on remote islands, and you want to close that gap as much as possible." In addition, be clear with your home office staff that the new locations need their full support, and encourage your new staff to ask for help when they need it. "Everyone needs to understand that, for us all to be successful, we have to do whatever we can to help the satellite grow as much as possible."

 

With consistent practices, clear expectations, and robust communication, your new locations will be well prepared to carry on your brand and grow your business.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.  ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

 

 

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Should you invest in commercial real estate or lease space for your small business? The answer depends on the nature of your business and how long you plan to stay in one place. Take a look at these pros and cons to figure out the best option for your growing firm.

 

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Click here to download a PDF of the infographic.

Employees are the lifeblood of every small business. An adroit loyal workforce can help small business owners build a successful enterprise efficiently and profitably. So it’s no surprise that acquiring and retaining the best talent is among the most important ongoing tasks for an entrepreneur. Earning a decent wage is a perpetual concern, but new issues have also become part of the employment negotiation, such as paid family leave and opportunities for employees to develop their skills. As you search for and try to hold onto top talent, consider these hiring strategies.

 

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Sources:
1. Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition—Recruitment and Screening. Society For Human Resource Management Survey. January 7, 2016.
https://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/pages/social-media-recruiting-screening-2015.aspx

 

2. Talent Acquisition: Recruitment and Selection. Society For Human Resource Management Survey. April 18, 2016.
https://www.shrm.org/research/surveyfindings/pages/talent-acquisition-recruitment-and-selection.aspx

 

3. 5 Tips to Attract, Keep and Motivate Your Employees. Business Know-How.
http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/attractworkforce.htm

 

4. Employee Recruitment Strategies: How to Attract (& Retain) Top Talent. Huffington Post, December 29, 2015.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-jacoby/employee-recruitment-stra_1_b_8885714.html

 

5. Small business advice: How to attract and retain loyal millennials. The Washington Post, July 21, 2015.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-small-business/wp/2015/07/21/small-business-advice-how-to-attract-and-retain-loyal-millennials/

 

6. 5 Secrets to Retaining Great Employees. Small Business Trends, January 22, 2016.
http://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/retaining-good-employees.html

 

7. What Attracts the Best Employees to a Company? Gallup, February 16, 2016.
http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/189212/attracts-best-employees-company.aspx

 

8. 7 Compensation Tactics To Help Retain Employees. CNBC, January 12, 2012.
http://www.cnbc.com/id/46045960

 

9. 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Attract and Retain Talent. SmallBizClub, July 26, 2013.
http://smallbizclub.com/run-and-grow/human-resources/5-ways-small-businesses-can-attract-and-retain-talent/

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only.
Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license.
The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc.
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. ©2016 Bank of America Corporation

ProductiveMeetings_Body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

Of all the hours small business owners spend in meetings, how much of that time is productive? Late arrivals, tangent-talkers, and disorganized agendas can easily turn a 30-minute meeting into an hour-long discussion. Follow these tips to make your meetings more efficient for everyone.

 

Do you really need to meet?

Andrea Driessen, “Chief Boredom Buster” of No More Boring Meetings, says to meet only when there is a problem to solve. “This helps eliminate some of the standard meetings we get stuck in,” she says. If there isn’t a problem to solve during your regular Tuesday meeting, maybe you don’t need to meet.

 

Prioritize the agenda

Organize the agenda in order of priority, with the most important item first. “Everything else can follow,” says Driessen. Move lighter topics to the end, when people are more mentally fatigued and tend to watch the clock.

 

Streamline the agenda

Reasonably estimate how many topics you can cover in 30 to 60 minutes. “If it requires dialog, problem solving conversation, or negotiation, keep it on the agenda,” says Driessen. Otherwise, check it off the list.

 

ProductiveMeetings_PQ.jpgPrepare

Hosts and guests alike should arrive to the meeting prepared. Hosts and attendees can distribute reading material, background information, and reports in advance of the meeting. That way, you can use meeting time for questions and conversation rather than reviewing paperwork.

 

Arrive on time

Much to the irritation of the punctual, latecomers delay and disrupt a meeting. Respect your colleagues—arrive on time and start your meetings on time. If you have a habitually late guest, author Jon Petz suggests a game of “pass the pad.” Give the last person to arrive a notebook or electronic device and delegate them the meeting note-taker. If someone arrives later, the pad gets passed to him. “This results in quick behavior changes with little effort,” says Driessen.

 

Cut the tangents

Driessen suggests that meeting hosts designate a “tangent officer” that can politely interrupt the rambler. The tangent officer then offers to either add the topic to the end of the agenda or save it for another meeting.

 

Invite the right people—and keep them accountable

Only invite people that have a stake in the meeting topics, Driessen suggests. This naturally keeps the meeting to a reasonable size and helps to avoid tangents from people unfamiliar with the topics.

 

Often meetings involve lots of discussion but no action. To ensure that ideas move forward, Driessen suggests a Post Program Pair-Up. Match participants with an “accountability buddy.” Ask guests to record at least one goal related to the meeting that they can complete by a certain date. The accountability buddies check in with one another to make sure they meet their goals. This buddy system, or something similar, will help you get stronger results and measurable accountability from your meetings.

 

With advance planning, you and your colleagues can hold and attend productive meetings. With fewer, but more purposeful, meetings, you can create more space in your day and enhance your business’s productivity.

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. 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.

 

©2016 Bank of America Corporation

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