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Small Businesses: Weather the Holidays

Unless you’re a Seasonal or Retail based business, it’s no secret that business will slow down around the holiday season. Right around October is where you can see a big drop in sales. These Holiday months can be rough on small businesses, so How do you continue your company’s growth into the holidays? If you agree that there might not be any customers to sell to during this time, what do you do with the extra time?

It’s crucial to not become idle and complacent during this Holiday season. As a business owner, there’s always things to be improved on and not hustling through the Holiday season can allow competitors to close in on your market. No matter what industry you’re in, there’s always challenges that need to be addressed. The harsh reality is – businesses fall victim to the Holiday slow season and end up closing doors.

Hustle-Work-Holidays

Stay ahead of competition and prepare for the Holidays. While others slow down and sit around, get the edge with these 4 tips.

Follow up on overdue Invoices

If you’re a small business, there’s a high chance that there’s outstanding invoices that haven’t been paid. With the additional downtime, make an effort to cash in on these invoices. Sometimes it’s as easy as invoices that you forgot about. Other times, it’s more difficult cases that need to be sent to collections – either way, you shouldn’t leave money on the table. Any money coming in is helpful to your books.

Make sure to keep note of why invoices are outstanding. Later, you can improve your billing process this way to ensure no more leaks.

Trim fat by cutting expenses

It’s easy to allow monthly expenses to get out of control. When business is doing well, you don’t notice the small thing. But You don’t have to wait until urgent times to do a review of your business expenses. There’s always ways to cut back. Where to start? Try Asking your employees. For Example: You can reduce your marketing expenses if your employees know that the ROI won’t be good or You can ask for email subscription/marketing services to be suspended a month. Finding ways to trim your expenses will give you extra cash flow into the new year.

Another expense you can look into reducing is your payroll. You can increase your employee morale and satisfaction by offering an option to have 1-2+ weeks of unpaid vacation. Some Employees will appreciate this option as they cherish time with their family and loved ones. In exchange, you get to reduce payroll for the month, and It’s a great way to keep everyone happy.

Build up a cash reserve

It’s always good to have a 2-month operating cash reserve, regardless if it’s the Holidays or not. In the months leading up to the last quarter, stash away some money for your cash reserves. If times get rough, you’ll be glad that you have it. You never know if you might need it for some unexpected tax liabilities or other operating expenses.

Reflect and Plan your attack

During the slow season, you should reflect on the past year of business. Meet with your accounting department to see what month was the busiest, then plan accordingly. Plan to apply strategies that were the most successful and make a note of what services or expenses offered the best ROI. Then Challenge yourself with a realistic goal that you want to beat. This will encourage growth and serve as a benchmark for you to work toward.

It’s not easy running a business. But between balancing your books, keeping your employees happy and solving problems daily – sometimes you forget about relaxing. Our final piece of advice is about stepping away. Taking a Vacation won’t destroy your business. The best time to take some personal time off is during the Holiday slow down. Going away for a vacation can do wonders for your thought process. According to (Forbes), 3/5 people reported having better clarity with their thoughts after an extended vacation. Use our tips to ensure productive use of your downtime.

18 Easy Tips to Start Your Business

Blueprint to starting a business -from ideas to implementation.

Starting a business, where do I begin? Information overload. I’ve complied what I’ve learned over the last 8 years of being on the internet.

Write down a list of services in your area that could be filled.

Write down a list of what your hobbies, interests are.

Research and see if there is a need for the service. Check if there is competition. If there is, see if you can do something easier/better/different. Is there a problem you can solve for your customers? In our area, I would love a delivery place that offered healthy foods such as good old-fashioned green beans with a hamburger instead of fries. Research a need in your area and see if you can fill it. Research the laws in your state. If you’re thinking of starting a bakery, check with your local health inspector to find out what is allowed. If you’re thinking of running a business out of your home and will have customers pick up orders, make sure and check with your local business zones. Some areas may not allow excessive traffic, it’s best to do your research.

Once you’ve decided what you want to do, research the business name and make sure it’s available. You’ll need to register it with the state. Most states allow you to do this online for a minimal fee.

Taxes- get legal. If you’re selling a product, see if you need to collect state sales tax. In my state, I collect taxes on products purchased in my state only and then forward to the Department of Revenue once a year.

Buy a domain name with your business name. 1and1.com and GoDaddy offer domains. This usually costs less than $10 for a year.

Hosting-ask friends and family for referrals. I love my host. Uptime is very important as well as response time. I host with a smart entrepreneur who owns her own servers and monitors them regularly. If there is a problem or I have a question, I know that she is one email or phone call away. I don’t get referred to another person for another issue.

Create a website. There are tons of ways to do this. There are many templates you can find, both paid and free. I’ve used both, plus created mine from scratch as well as paid to have my website created from scratch.

Shopping cart-How are you going to sell your product/service? There are as many shopping carts out there as there are ways to start a business. A free shopping cart that is easy to use is Mals-e. It integrates easily with Paypal.com. PayPal also has their own shopping cart and buy now buttons. When considering a shopping cart, look at the features that you are going to need. Are you selling 20,000 different products? If so you’ll need a shopping cart that lets you use Excel or other programs to upload information. If you’re selling 10 or even 50 items then Mals-e will probably work for you. Mals-e creates a HTML button to insert into your page. The customer is taken to a secure form where they input their payment information.

Are you secure? If you will be accepting credit cards, you will need to be certified PCI compliant for credit cards. Some shopping carts take care of this for you. I currently use Ultracart and they offer PCI compliance with their cart. I have a SSL certificate that I pay a yearly fee for. To get the certificate, I had to prove who I was and get it verified. This protects both you and your customer.

Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)-Learn it and keep learning it. This is how you get the best search engine results, which can mean the difference between your business making a profit or losing money. If your website is optimized correctly Google and other search engines will find you and send traffic to your website, resulting in more sales. Cricket’s search engine optimization class is the best and it’s free!

Now that your website is up and running and you have a working shopping cart, it’s time to advertise. When you built your website you used keywords that others would find you with, right? It’s important to understand that just because you have a website up and running, it doesn’t mean customers will magically find you. There are many new websites going up every day so yours has to stand out. You can start by adding original, unique content using your keywords. To find your keywords, use a keyword finder. Google has a free one. Another way is to brainstorm. What would you type into Google to find you? Who needs your services? Who is your target market? Where can you find them?

Accounting- set up a method to keep track of sales and expenses. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or even old-fashioned pen and paper. QuickBooks is a popular program that is easy to set up and maintain, just do it from the beginning or you’ll spend time backtracking to put information in.

Marketing plan-Create a map of where you’re going and how you are going to reach your goal Get your free business marketing plan workbook.

Ideas- Keep track of all your ideas. I write them down and put them in my folder of ideas that could be implemented with time and money.

Have a support system. I have a fabulous group of women who have their own specialties. I’ve learned so much from them. When I’m having a bad day I can go to them and vent. It’s extremely important to have a support system in place. Realize that you can do this but it will be hard work, long hours and little pay up front.

Work, Love and Enjoy- My best advice comes from Kay Green, work your business like a business every day. Set up a business schedule and stick to it. Work on your business every day. My friend and mentor taught me this. She went from one product to having a storefront and being a leader in child safety and baby products, all within less than 10 years..

Read these tips, make notes and read it again. Remember that although this is step by step, it can be accomplished by doing more than one thing at once. When you’re an entrepreneur you will wear many hats. If there’s something you don’t know, reach out to your network and ask for help.

On Business Growth: Why Small Businesses Should Have Websites

Ten years ago, the prospect of owning a website for small business was close to impossible. It used to be an unexplored territory that was not very accessible, had limited potential and was very expensive. Fast forward to the present, the tables have turned. The Internet has now become the most efficient and direct way to promote, advertise, and sell.

However, many small businesses are still hesitant to get their own website because they cannot quite see how it would be beneficial. For a better perspective, here are some of the reasons why getting a website is a profitable investment for small businesses:

Visibility and Accessibility. Establishing an online presence allows small businesses to be seen and to be reached by their customers. Well, having a physical office space or store which can be frequented by would-be customers can actually do just that. However, these physical spaces are limited by geographical boundaries and could not really operate 24/7 unless the business invest on additional manpower and operation cost. Websites, on the other hand, gives small businesses their virtual office space online to make them accessible to customers round the clock. With websites, the customers can check out the company, what it offers, at what cost, and even place orders while the business owner is sleeping! And all of these can be done at a cost that is only a fraction of what most businesses would spend for additional manpower and operation cost when they operate 24/7.

Marketing and Promotion. Small businesses usually have a smaller area of operation, thus, their target customers are just a specific group of people confined in a certain location or demographic profile. However, even if the number of target customers may not be that many, advertising can still cost much. Traditional marketing and promotion are done by advertising in newspapers, television, and radio, giving away flyers and brochures, and hosting sales events. All of these come with a price and it is not at all cheap. However, when a small business owns a website, it can easily use all available online marketing and promotion strategies and direct all these to their virtual office space and make sales. It has been proven that having a website has boosted many businesses’ sales because not only is the promotion strategies effective, they are also much, much more affordable than traditional advertising strategies.

Wide audience reach. Small business has the opportunity to expand the reach of their market. The Internet is a venue which is not confined by spaces and boundaries. What this means is that a small business in the USA can actually expand to the global market so long as its operation allows. By establishing a website, a small business has also opened its doors to accommodate a wider group of customers.

Quantifiable. Websites come with analytics that allow their owners and users to monitor the activities that occur in the site. This means that it is possible to see which of the posts in the website are effective and are frequented by customers. It can also monitor from what location the business is doing well. These and other information are available in a company’s website, all of which are very important in analyzing the market to help the business craft better strategies for promotion.

These are just some of the advantages that small businesses can reap if they set up their own website. There are still more that websites can offer only if companies are just more open to this new world of advertising.

Capalon Communications is a US-based company that offers telephone solutions services like PBX hosting, interactive voice response, and internet dialtone. Web services are also offered such as data hosting, colocation, digital marketing, web design & development, and managed server hosting.

How To Future-Proof Your Small Business

According to Richard Branson CEO and Founder of Virgin “A business’s long history is meaningless if it doesn’t provide the best-designed, most reliable products or services at competitive prices and back up those offerings with the finest customer service. In these fast-moving times, longevity is more the exception than the rule. According to a 2012 study by Richard N. Foster of Yale University, the average lifespan of a company listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has decreased to just 18 years, from 61 years in 1958.

Are you becoming complacent?

Almost no products are so good that they cannot be constantly improved on. In the UK they have a great saying: like painting the Forth Bridge in Britain,” which is an unending task. This is because the painters of this massive bridge in Edinburgh were never done – once they had finished painting it, they then were needed to immediately start again. The task came to an end in 2011, because workers had switched to a new kind of paint. This is a great example how your businesses product development should be a similarly endless quest for improvement.

According to Bluecorona Small Business Statistics for 2016/2017

66% of small business owners say that finding new customers is a top concern.
40% of small business owners say that retaining customers is a priority.
43% of SMBs says that improving customer experience and retention is their top strategy to improve revenue growth.
30% say that keeping up with technology advances is a major concern of small business owners.
What is Future Proofing?

The term “future-proof” refers to the ability of something to continue to be of value into the distant future; that the item does not become obsolete. This information can be distilled into many principles depending on industry group which can then be applied to many areas.

10 Ways to Future Proof your Small Digital Business

Work with millennial and change your thinking.
Think from your client’s standpoint and create a positive product experience from this viewpoint.
Common Q&A if you get the same questions try re-writing your website copy to better answer common questions.
Focus on creating a long-term client not just a one-time sale.
Read about marketing trends and the directions on technology
Eliminate untrustworthy or toxic people from your life, this could be a lifelong friend, family member, a dishonest bank that has cheated for so long it’s become common practice, or even your mortgage broker who breaches your client trust and confidentiality.
Monitor What direction your top 5 closest competitors are doing and create an average for your new direction if a new change is needed.
Have a upsell strategy built into your product purchase process.
Train your staff right from the start on exactly how to carry out the tasks they are expected to complete.
Cut your costs, all businesses have expenses. Most businesses have expenses that can be cut. Don’t wait until you need to cut your operating costs to start eliminating unnecessary services and expenses from your monthly burn rate. Take a look into the expenses that don’t equate to your basic bottom line and ax them. Remember for every dollar you save it’s then directly reflected to your profit.
Small Business Digital Marketing that Converts

If you know anything about small business, then you know its overall mission is to attract customers that are interested in your products and services. You might have tried Google ads, or FB and social media marketing to some success. The problem with many digital marketing methods is you pay your money and cross your fingers that sales with convert. I have personally tried almost every type of digital marketing you can think of and the only one that sticks out for me is official email marketing. Email has been the only marketing method that provides the ability to grow massive contacts databases easily and responsibly. With email marketing you can send out thousands of emails an hour and have a web-based dashboard manage and automate the entire technical process. If I had to choose only one digital marketing platform to build my business it would be email marketing.