Forum Posts

Cierra Minnifield
Feb 22, 2022
In General Discussion
“The customer is always right.” While business owners have undoubtedly heard that phrase many times, just about everyone has seen videos of customers behaving badly. From rioting on airplanes to mistreating grocery store workers, customers have proven time and time again that this well-worn saying is often incorrect. However, there’s still a lot of good that can come out of empowering your customers, especially as a small business owner. When your clients feel truly empowered by working with you, they are far more likely to come back to you again in the future. Better yet, they’ll likely refer you to others in their circle, as well. There’s a fine line to walk to ensure you empower your customers without losing control of how you run your business. But do it right, and you can have confidence that you’ll satisfy every one of your clients. Optimize your services based on customer needs. The needs of your customers will undoubtedly change over time. This is especially true today with the rate that technology is changing how we interact with the world around us. You might even find yourself expanding to new customer groups as you grow your business. This became especially clear during an email conversation with Becky Moore, writer, photographer and founder of Global Grasshopper. She explained, “I started doing a travel blog because of my own wanderlust. While the blog provided valuable information to other would-be travelers, I’ve since been able to collaborate with countless brands on tourism-related campaigns as they look for relatable ways to promote their destinations. That initial goal of helping other travelers remains in place, but by paying attention to the market, we’ve also been able to expand into brand marketing as well.” A willingness to change your services based on identifiable client needs ultimately empowers your customers by helping them better meet their goals — a sure way to get them to continue working with you in the future. Provide self-service options whenever possible. People are coming to you for a reason: They need help. At the same time, many customers aren’t entirely willing to give up their sense of independence. This is why self-checkout lines are so popular at grocery stores and other retailers — because customers often like to do things themselves, even if the employee running the cash register would still be more efficient. As such, whenever possible, you should help your customers feel like they’re in control by allowing them to “self-serve.” If they want to navigate your entire website and schedule a consultation without making a phone call, you should definitely give them the option to do so. You can also help customers self-serve by providing a FAQ or support page that addresses common questions and concerns. When clients feel like they can figure out problems or get answers without needing to call or email you, they’ll have a more favorable impression of your business — and you’ll save time. As digital marketing entrepreneur Neil Patel notes, a FAQ page can also boost your SEO: “By default, your frequently asked questions, and their associated answers, are full of relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is probably searching for. You can capture longtail keywords in ways that are natural and human, rather than keyword stuffing. These question-and-answer layouts are also a good way to snag the featured snippets Google provides in their search results.” Be open to feedback. The idea of getting genuine and potentially critical feedback can be frightening to many entrepreneurs. Like it or not, customers feel greatly empowered by the ability to leave reviews for the businesses they interact with on Google or Yelp. However, you don’t want to discover that someone had a negative experience with you after you read their review on Google. While engaging with a customer by responding to their review can help mitigate the damage (especially if they’re willing to update their review), brands can’t expect those bad reviews to disappear. It can be far more beneficial to you and the customer when you reach out to them directly to ask about their experience — both the pros and the cons. By letting your clients know that you take their feedback seriously and that you’re committed to improving your services, your customers will feel like they are helping to shape your business for the better. This proactive outreach will also give you a vital opportunity to solve customer issues before they result in a negative online review for the world to see. If you’re willing to listen to customers with genuine, authentic feedback, you’ll often find helpful tidbits for how you can do better. Better yet, this practice can also help you collect positive testimonials from satisfied clients who might otherwise not have published a review online. Empowering to create a win-win. No matter what type of services you provide, creating a high-quality experience for your customers is ultimately what will keep you in business. By helping clients feel truly empowered when they work with you, you can improve satisfaction and retention rates, while also ensuring that you are fully meeting their wants and needs. When you empower your clients, you will end up making your job easier, because you’ll better understand how to serve them. That’s going to pay big dividends in the long run.
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 16, 2022
In General Discussion
Hiring a practical lawyer who is well-versed in the issues affecting emerging companies can be a smart business move for startups. Here are top five reasons every emerging entrepreneur should hire a lawyer – and the right one. 1. A smoother due diligence process with investors Most startups will need to raise money from outside investors, often in multiple rounds of funding. Sophisticated investors will conduct due diligence on the company prior to investing, and will request copies of entity formation documents, patent and trademark filings, material contracts, etc. Producing insufficient documentation in the due diligence process can be a huge red flag and may ultimately derail the investment. Involving your lawyer in these important matters for your business will help ensure that the due diligence process runs smoothly, and will give your prospective investors the comfort they need to stroke the check. 2. Tap into the lawyer’s network A good startup lawyer will help startups with more than just their legal needs; they will also allow promising startups to tap into the lawyer’s network. Startup lawyers with lots of clients or who practice in a large firm often have relationships with potential investors, strategic partners and customers. Good startup lawyers recognize the value of making introductions to help their clients succeed. 3. Be smarter about structuring founder relationships A good startup lawyer will help founders navigate issues with entity formation and, most importantly, will help founders structure their legal relationship with one another. Investors will tell you that the team running the startup company is perhaps even more important than the startup idea. It is crucial for founders to think carefully about how they want to allocate equity among themselves, and what will happen to that equity if a founder decides to leave the company. Lawyers are often called upon to assist with founder divorces, which are generally messy and painful. Thinking through founder separation at the outset, when everyone is getting along, can make the founder divorce process much cleaner and more straightforward. 4. Help founders be more strategic Often founders can act with single-minded focus to achieve short-term goals, such as completing development of the product, garnering investor interest or closing a deal with a customer. This is especially true when a startup is new and has limited manpower. A good startup lawyer can act as a member of the team and help companies take the long view. From developing strategies for the protection of intellectual property to evaluating various funding options, a good startup lawyer can help founders be more thoughtful about their business. 5. Comply with the law At its most basic level, hiring a lawyer can help founders ensure that they comply with the law. Founders don’t know what they don’t know, and a trusted adviser can help startups navigate the legal landscape and help ensure, for example, that the company doesn’t violate the complex securities laws when trying to raise funds and issue stock. Legal compliance is especially important for startups operating in highly regulated industries, such as the health care industry, where it is easy to get tripped up.
5 reasons entrepreneurs should hire a lawyer — and the right one
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 14, 2022
In General Discussion
Out-of-the-Box Ways to Stay Motivated and Excited about Your Business Getting and staying motivated is crucial, whether you're striving to reach a business goal, starting a new business venture, or managing the daily operations of your business. Lack of motivation can affect your confidence and hurt your potential for growth. The more motivated you are, the more momentum you'll have and the easier it will be to tackle ambitious goals and reach higher levels of success in your company. Building a business is challenging, but motivation is a fundamental part of the equation. Being motivated all the time is unrealistic, but there are strategies that can help you stay motivated consistently and achieve explosive growth in your business. #1. Entrench Yourself in a Goal Having a goal can help you stay motivated and excited about your business. SMART goal setting is one of the best ways to outline your priorities, clarify the importance of each goal, and create an action plan to help you achieve your goals. Break down long-term goals into weekly or even daily steps, and the progress you make daily will help you build momentum and motivate you to keep pushing forward. #2. Relive Past Successes Remind yourself what it felt like to reach certain accomplishments or milestones. Think about the process you went through and the work you put in. Thinking about your best moments can help you overcome challenges and take consistent action. #3. Have a Mission Bigger Than just a Business Look at any successful company and you'll realize that it's more than widgets, marketing or who is in charge. Most successful businesses are built around a mission and vision. And the driving force that makes these businesses successful is helping people and changing the world. If you want to remain consistently and constantly motivated and excited about your business, build your business around a goal that's bigger than making money. Create a business that makes a positive impact on the lives of your employees and customers. Build a business that offers financial security and freedom. Get clear on the values and mission that determine the actions you take. #4. Take a New Approach Many times progress generates routines; routines lead to boredom, and boredom can lead to lack of motivation. Are your routines causing you to lose excitement? It's time to shake things up. Change the way you do things. Change when you do things, how you do them, and change how you think about everything. Alter your standard processes and introduce a new way of thinking; this will help you get past complacency and renew your motivation and excitement. #5. Find a Mentor There are people who have walked the path before you, faced the setbacks and emerged victorious. Appreciate the drive and determination of others and look at how they overcame the setbacks they faced on their journeys. This is motivating and it'll give you some creative ideas to help you get through the hurdles you're facing. #6. Find an Accountability Partner Having someone to encourage you, support you, and challenge you is a good way to get and remain motivated. If you're the only one holding yourself accountable, it's easier to cheat. Sharing your goals and vision with others enlists them to help you deliver, and also it holds you accountable to take consistent action. When you make a commitment to someone else, you'll have someone else counting on you. Also, you'll have an increased motivation to take action because there's a chance you'll disappoint someone other than yourself. As a business owner, you're building your dream. You're putting your mark in a world full of conformity. And it'll take a lot of consistent and constant motivation to move past the hard times. Use these six tips to tap into your inner power and use that motivation to build your entrepreneurial momentum.
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 09, 2022
In General Discussion
Building a business can be difficult, so is running a successful one. There are many milestones in the journey of starting a business and preparing it for long-term success. Each of these needs different strategies, approaches, and resources to keep things going. Sometimes, you need to abandon the best plans if they don't work out as you'd hoped. You may want a second opinion on important decisions throughout the journey. This is where adding a coach in your business model comes in handy. A coach can help you develop your business plan before launch, keep things in order when you're launching, or refine your business practice once you start your business. Just like an athletic coach, a business coach can offer help and inspiration at any stage of your business's development. Remember, every business' journey is different, but there are common instances in which a business coach might be just what you need. What Is a Business Coach? A business coach is an entrepreneur's life coach, psychologist, and business mentor. A business coach can help you develop your business plan and implement your idea, and they can help make your business model successful and profitable. A coach can be an impartial judge of your ideas and they can help you diagnose problems in your company if and when they occur. A business coach is a professional who knows the ins and outs of running a business. They can offer advice on how to become a better business leader, how to handle the stress of being a business owner, how to find additional revenue, and how to increase your business sales. Think of a business coach as a life coach, as they can help your business figure out how to live to its maximum capabilities. A business coach will help you discover what's hindering you from becoming the entrepreneur you're destined to be. Benefits of Working with a Business Coach 1. Accountability and Motivation If you're like many others, you've got a big list of things you want/should do for your business but other "important" things always come up and you do them instead - like scrolling through your email, writing another blog post, or creating another to-do list, and reorganizing your to-do list. A business coach will help you discover the things that give you the best return on your time investment and they'll hold you accountable until you do those things. It's strange, but if you have someone whom you are paying and who tells you to get something done by the next call, you'll get it done. Why? It's because you don't want to waste your money. If you don't get things done, the next time you talk you'll spend most of your time explaining why you didn't do that task instead of focusing on the next step of scaling your business. True, having an accountability partner can help with accountability. But when your money is on the line, this is more effective. 2. It's All about You It feels nice when everything is all about us, right? Because your best friend, significant other, or your online friends don't always make everything about you. With these people, there's always an exchange of focus. You talk about yourself and they talk about themselves: they relate your struggles to theirs. But with a business coach, it's all about you. Their focus is you, your problems, your struggles, and your business. It's good to be selfish sometimes and if you want to a better friend, partner, or person, save your selfishness for your business coach. 3. Fresh Ideas Someone who doesn't know you well can see your business in a different light. Also, they've worked deeply with other entrepreneurs and different companies, and they'll bring that experience into your company. Sometimes, we get stuck in our heads and experiences and this turns into weeks and months of swirling the same ideas around our heads. Do you know that feeling when you come across an article explaining a new way of doing something and a light-bulb goes off in your head? Like, "Why didn't I think of this?" A business coach will give you those light-bulbs moments every time. Don't sit there and wait to stumble upon that article! Take some time and list your biggest struggles right now. Even though most business coaches can help with all aspect of a business, many of them focus on specific issues. It's good to start with your biggest struggle.
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 08, 2022
In General Discussion
Every business should find a strategy that helps it to achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This strategy should be based on the strengths and weaknesses of the firm's products/services and the position it wants to have regarding its customers. The best business strategy is one that leverages a business's strengths for the greatest profit and yields the highest return on investment. Most businesses try to gain a competitive advantage by offering customers something valuable for their money. This could be the lowest price in the market or offering a better product to justify a higher price. Whatever it is, a business must identify and execute a clear strategy to beat the competition and survive in the long term. Here are four business strategies you may not have thought about. 1. Growth Strategy Many businesses plan to grow and increase their sales and profits. But there are certain methods businesses must use to implement a growth strategy. The method an enterprise uses to expand its business primarily depends on its financial situation, the competition, and even government regulations. One type of growth strategy is market penetration. Businesses use a market penetration strategy when marketing existing products within the same market they've been marketing to before. If you want to grow and expand when using existing products and markets, increase your market share. And, one way to increase market share is by lowering prices. Sometimes market expansion growth strategy is called market development, and it involves selling products in a new market. This happens when there's a lot of competition, leaving no room for growth in the current market. So, it's crucial for businesses to find new markets to increase sales and profits. Also, a company may expand its product line or add new features to existing products to increase its sales and profits. When businesses use a product expansion strategy, they continue selling in the current market. This form of growth strategy works well when technology changes. 2. Differentiation Strategy Differentiation strategy involves making your products/services different from and more attractive than those of your competitors. To do this, you must consider the nature of your industry and of your products or services. This primarily depends on features, functionality, support, durability, and providing a brand image that your target audience values. To execute the differentiation strategy successfully, you need to conduct extensive research, and you must have the ability to deliver high-quality products/services. Also, you'll require an effective sales and marketing strategy to make sure the market understands the benefits offered by the differentiated products/services. 3. Exit Strategy You're probably focused on building your business, not the day you'll leave it. And to some extent, an exit strategy sounds bad. However, the best reason for having an exit strategy is to plan how to capitalize on a good situation, instead of getting out of a bad one. An exit strategy allows you to run your business and focus your energy and efforts on things that make it better and more appealing to acquirers and buyers you target. The best exit strategy is one that fits your company and your personal goals. First, decide what you want to walk away with. If it's money, then selling on the open market or to another business is the best option. However, if it's creating a legacy or seeing your business continue to flourish, then family succession or selling to employees may be the best option for you. Whichever exit strategy you choose, start working on it early. Planning early gives you enough time to do it right and maximize your returns. 4. Pricing Strategy Most small businesses generate revenue through marketing only. And product prices account for that revenue. So, determining the right price for your products is the most crucial decision you'll make as a business owner. There are many factors that determine the right pricing strategy. Sometimes, having the lowest price is not a strong position for a business because customers are likely to perceive their products/services as low quality. Equally, it's crucial for companies to price their products and services effectively to avoid situations where their prices take a hit because of being relatively high compared to those of their competitors. Also, businesses should avoid keeping their prices too low to maximize profits or avoid making losses. Thus, pricing must be done effectively and smartly. Business owners should consider every aspect before pricing their product, because how products and services are priced tells customers a lot about what to expect from a company.
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 04, 2022
In General Discussion
We are all born with a lot of talent and the ability to reach our full potential and achieve greatness if we choose to. Mindset is crucial to anyone who wants to succeed in business or in life. It affects your whole thinking, and your thinking determines your actions. What do the world's most successful entrepreneurs have in common apart from successful businesses? The answer is, the right mindsets. Mindset together with consistent action is the key to achieving and maintaining momentum. So, what is mindset? It's a mental frame that organizes and interprets information in a way that helps one to understand an experience uniquely, and it guides one to take corresponding actions and responses. The mindset we adopt affects our judgment. Change your mindset and you'll be able to achieve all your dreams. So, what's the right mindset for business growth and why is it so important? You Subconsciously Influence Those around You Attitude, whether it's positive or negative, is contagious. And as a business owner, your employees look up to you and your attitude influences them. So think carefully about the message you send. Everyone - employees, customers, investors, and suppliers - will pick up on your attitude. If you're positive and happy, your customers and staff will be more positive, and they'll want to do business with you. But if you're negative, people are less likely to want to work with you. Be careful about the culture you want to create in your business because you're shaping young minds that may run your business one day. A Positive Mindset Makes You Feel More in Control You'll experience frustration, anger, or disappointment in work and personal life, but what's matters is how you approach those challenges. Approaching anything in your company with a positive attitude will make you feel more calm, confident and in control, and this will help you perform better. To maintain a positive attitude, work your way through setbacks that come up. Have time to rest and disconnect from work. As a business owner, it may be difficult to find the right balance and switch off, but mastering this will help you have a peaceful and focused mind. Your Business Success Depends on How Much You Grow As an entrepreneur, you're in charge of educating yourself, because you don't have a boss to send you to training or make you read. You have the freedom, but this freedom comes with responsibility. Research and educate yourself; broaden your horizons so that you can be better and more informed about what's best for you and your business. Always remember that if you're not growing, you're only dying, and this isn't good for your business. Resilience Will Help You Bounce Back from Setbacks Running a business isn't easy. Things don't always go as planned. There are many challenges, but what's matters is that you shouldn't give up no matter what happens. Building resilience and having a positive mindset will help you overcome setbacks and keep moving forward and remain focused on your goals. Be persistent and don't let failure prevent you from moving forward. A Focused Mind Is more Likely to Succeed If you lack a clear vision of your business, you probably won't succeed in creating it. A focused mind is fundamental in maintaining the bigger picture and it will help you make the right decisions. It's easy to get distracted and bogged down by daily tasks, but successful entrepreneurs focus and concentrate on what matters. A positive mindset changes everything around you and you change alongside it. A simple change of mind can make you a better person. The growth of your business depends on your willingness to show up for yourself, and a positive mindset fuels your ambition.
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Cierra Minnifield
Feb 02, 2022
In General Discussion
As a business owner, how can you be productive and make sure your focus is on the right areas? Every business owner is a self-starter; this comes with the territory. Being a business owner means you have no playbook to follow. Many business owners are breaking new ground and learning through trial and error. So, it's daunting to determine where to focus your energy on a given day. A good day starts in the morning. Thus, a good morning routine can set the tone of your productivity for the rest of the day. Some days you're focused, feeling all pumped, and other days you feel like doing nothing. A great morning can be magical, but there's more to the perfectly productive day than magical forces at work. Clearing your most important task in the morning comes with many benefits, and it can completely change the outlook for your day. Peak of Willpower Your decision-making ability and determination are at their peak in the morning and this reduces throughout the day. So tackling the most important and daunting tasks in the morning is crucial because you're suited to complete them. Leaving them for later means you are less likely to have the energy and drive to pursue them. Fewer Distractions Working on daunting tasks in the morning is beneficial because you have fewer distractions. Waking up early will help you have a more peaceful environment, without constant distractions from emails, friends, and life in general. Sense of Achievement Working on challenging tasks and successfully completing them is one of the most rewarding things you can do in a day. Many times when you go to bed, you likely wonder what you did that day. And having a daunting task under your belt can give you a sense of accomplishment. It Can Help You Stop Procrastination Have you organized your personal morning routine? Then it's time to take action and have a productive day. According to Brian Tracy in Eat That Frog, if you tackle daunting tasks first, your other tasks won't be that bad. Sure, after you eat a frog, even something unappetizing won't be that bad. Also, Tracy recommends that if you have to eat two frogs, start with ugliest. This will help you get around procrastination. Because if all your tasks are daunting, you might ease the torture by starting with the most challenging. The "frog" is your most important task - the one you dread the most because it's so big and important. Starting with the most daunting task will give you a huge boost of accomplishments and it'll enable you to clear your tasks quickly. However, starting your day with the most challenging task can also be - challenging. And it's easy to procrastinate, making it hard to get your day started. Sometimes, clearing a few small tasks early on will give you the momentum to clear your frog. Handling the most challenging task first is the best productivity hack ever.
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 31, 2022
In General Discussion
A business that loses its momentum is doomed. For the long-term success of a business, many things are needed, but momentum is crucial. Momentum is the force that keeps a business moving and growing in the right direction. A business may lose momentum because of the following reasons: * Lack of will by the owner - If a business owner doesn't want to grow and they become complacent about their business's position * Stagnation - A business owner, in this case, wants to grow but they don't know how to do so * Not thinking big - If you think small, you'll be small In this article, we'll explore three things that suffer when a business loses momentum. 1. Balance There are many elements of running a successful business. And having the right balance is essential in making sure you remain focused on things that will help you grow and scale your business. When your business loses momentum, many things feel important and urgent even when they aren't. This splits your focus and slows your momentum, and you're unable to take your next step. Successful business owners aren't perfect; they to struggle with balance, and they're aware of it. So they regularly audit their time and actions to make sure they maintain - or regain - balance. If your business loses momentum, your balance is off and there are many things distracting you from focusing on growing and scaling your business. 2. Marketing When your company loses momentum, your marketing is inconsistent. If your focus and balance are off, your marketing approaches will be non-existent. Inconsistent marketing strategies means a dip in gaining new sales and clients. The best marketing approaches start with adding value to your customers. You create content that helps them. And when they're ready to make a purchase, you'll be their first choice because of the value you're offering them. However, when your enterprise loses momentum, your marketing strategies will be non-existent and your focus won't be on offering value to your audience. If your business lacks promotions or you have inconsistent marketing strategies, it's a sign your business has no momentum. 3. Audience When your company loses momentum, you lose your customers. When customers believe in what you do, they stay loyal and they refer your business to their friends and families. But if your company isn't growing or moving in the right direction, you neglect your audience and you don't provide value to them. And when customers feel neglected and unappreciated, they'll leave you. If customers leave your company, you lose revenue and your company operates at a loss. This should scare you into taking a step back and getting honest about what's going in your company. When a business is experiencing difficulties, you can end its operations completely or rebrand its products/services. Whatever you do, maintain a positive outlook by taking critical actions. If you lose momentum, evaluate what choices made this happen. Doing research will help you undercover the missteps that could be avoided in the future.
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 26, 2022
In General Discussion
Investing in a bad business opportunity is costly and discouraging. But this happens all the time. Business owners are always looking for the next big thing, and markets and numbers can be tricky no matter how informed you are on the topic. It's hard to find a good business opportunity, and any successful entrepreneur will tell you it took a while to get it right. To become a successful entrepreneur, you need to know how to detect unique and good opportunities, as well as test and execute them more efficiently than your competitors. So, how do you find the right opportunity to take your business to new markets and growth levels? Here are six ways to help you identify the right opportunity for your business. #1. Listen to Your Potential Customers and Past Leads When you're targeting potential customers, pay attention to their needs, wants, challenges, and frustrations within your industry. Have they used similar products or services in the past? Did they like or dislike those products or services and why? Why did they choose you? What do they want from your products or services? This will help you know if the opportunity is right for your market, and you'll develop more tailored products and services that offer value to your audience. You'll also overcome common shortcomings. #2. Market Size One of the most crucial factors in assessing a business opportunity is the market size. Carry out market research. Figure out if there's a market for the new opportunity and if so, how big that market is. Before you invest your time, energy, and money on the new idea, make sure the demand is there. You don't have to appeal to a huge audience, but it's important to understand the market. Also, it's important to know how engaged the market is and if they're likely to pay for what you plan to offer. #3. Relationships Does the new business opportunity come with new relationships? For instance, do you have existing relationships to help you leverage the opportunity? Do you know someone who is technically minded who can help you with certain aspects of the new venture? What is your relationship with potential investors or customers? If you have existing relationships, the new opportunity will work smoothly and it'll be more successful. #4. Assess Your Finances Examine your current finances. It's essential to know how much you'll spend on your initial investment, as well as ongoing operations. Figure out if the opportunity needs a one-time buy-in or if you'll have regular recurring costs. Also, determine if you must secure financing before launching the new venture. Then think of every scenario that could go right or wrong with the new opportunity. If an opportunity is hard to assess, or if the investment will over-extend you financially, then it is not right for you and your business. But if you see it's a calculated risk where a loss won't significantly affect you financially, then the opportunity is right for your business. #5. Examine Industry Trends Most once-viable opportunities dwindle because of downward slides in certain business industries. Get statistical reports from industry organizations or associations like state business development agencies. This will help you know if a certain industry is on the upswing in terms of earnings and job development, or if it's on a downslope. Determine the strength and health of the industry you want to venture into, and assess its long-term potential. To succeed, find a high-growth industry which is established but hasn't reached its maximum potential yet. #6. Gauge Competition It is important to know who is already engaged in the business opportunity you want to explore. This will help you see how you measure up. For instance, if another business is already established in the market and it offers prices you can't compete with, then this opportunity isn't right for you. But if there is little or no competition and you've examined the market need, this is a wise investment. After examining the business opportunity, it is time to decide if it is right for your business. This will enable you to make decisions faster - before you waste time and money on opportunities that aren't right.
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 24, 2022
In General Discussion
It is hard to achieve anything without a goal. Whether you’re coaching a football team or running a business, you need a strategic plan. A strategic plan helps to look at all the things your business can achieve and narrows them down to what your business is good at. Strategy goals also help business owners determine where to spend money, human capital and time. But, how can you create focused strategy goals? 1. Remember Your Vision/Mission Your vision explains where you want to be in the future. Basically, it is a dream you hope to achieve. And it is how you want others to view your organization in the future. For instance, a restaurant may have this vision statement: To provide fresh and delicious food to our customers. A mission statement describes how your company will achieve its vision. It describes the "what." So, as you develop a mission, it is vital to ask yourself, "What am I passionate about? What do I value?" Every business should have written vision and mission statements. These statements help you to make decisions based on what is important for your business. Sure, you may know what you need to do improve your business, but it is easy to forget this when dealing with the daily hassles. Focusing on your vision/mission statements will help you and your employees remember what is important as you go about doing your daily tasks. Remembering your vision/mission helps you and your employees to remain focused and bound in common purpose. 2. Focus on the Big Picture When creating strategic goals, remember the reason you started your business. This should be your foundation. Who do you want to serve? What products/services will you offer? What is your mission? These are the primary reasons you’re in business and they should always be at the forefront when you're making decisions. Seeing the big picture will help you stay focused on your goals, and the daily hassles of running a business won't distract you. 3. Concentrate on Your Big Goals To create focused strategy goals, it's important to focus on your big goals. Do you have a specific amount of income you want to make during the year? Do you want to launch multiple products? Is there a lifestyle goal you want your company to support? Every business owners goals will be different, but remember to include yours as part of your strategic plan. Always keep it simple, high-level, and targeted. 4. Stay True to Your Target Market You're in business to serve your customers. Survey them; ask them what they want and what they like most. Getting feedback can eliminate the stress and hassle of trying to predict what your customers like. Save time and money before launching a new product/service by asking your target audience what they think. Surveys are simple to create and they add value to the customer experience. Getting feedback might even help you set a few priorities you'd never have considered. Surveying your target market and getting feedback will help you stay tuned with their needs and pain points. And this will help you stay focused on your business goals. 5. Reflect on Successes and Failures Many successful entrepreneurs not only reflect on what worked but also on what didn't. Don't just note the wins and losses on a tally board. Instead, explore why things worked or didn't. This will help you know what to avoid in the future. Companies that survive the long term are those that identify where they hit the mark and also where may have failed. Take time from the daily activities to reflect and reposition based on what you see. Reflecting on successes and failures will help you to set focused strategy goals because you'll understand your strengths and weaknesses. By staying focused on your vision, focusing on the big picture, and reflecting on your successes and failures, your business can weather the storm of distractions, daily unpredictable moments, and market challenges. Staying focused on your goals in a structured way can help any business owner succeed.
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 19, 2022
In General Discussion
Word of mouth marketing is considered by many to be the most desired form of marketing. The trust, referrals, and overall brand-building buzz that’s garnered by customers spreading the good word to prospects are worth its weight in gold. Some products, services, and experiences naturally produce chatter, but there are certain things that any company can do to stimulate word of mouth and cash in on the buzz. Here are six ways to get your customers talking about you and your organization: 1) Ask them – The best word of mouth starts with “word of listen.” Call your customers up and ask them why they buy, why they stick around, and why they tell their friends about you. You might be a bit surprised by their answers. Hint: it’s usually not the stuff you have in your new marketing brochure. You stand a far greater chance of attracting the right customers and the right buzz if you really understand what your current customers value about doing business with you. This goes for online and social media listening as well – what are they saying in Slack channels, blog comments, on LinkedIn, or Twitter? 2) Teach them – Sometimes great word of mouth just happens, but sometimes you’ve got to help it along. One way to do this is to make sure you are teaching your customers how to spot an ideal client, what a prospect in need might say when looking for your products, and how to properly and concisely describe how your company is different. Of course, in today’s hyper-social media world you should also be teaching your happiest customers how to write reviews on Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook Ratings and Reviews, Insider Pages, and CitySearch-type rating sites. 3) Star them – Letting a customer testimonial or success story go uncaptured or untold is downright criminal in WOM circles. Today you can easily record customer testimonials on an iPhone or Android or you can start doing video interviews over Zoom to record their success stories. These “real life” bits of content are gold and turn your featured customers into talking referral billboards for your brand. Want to take this idea up a notch? Hold a customer party and film a dozen or so at one time in a great atmosphere – this alone will get your customers talking. 4) Include them – People like to be asked what they think, it’s just human nature, but it’s also a great way to get some sound advice. Create a round table discussion group made up of select customers and charge them with advising you once a quarter or so on new marketing and business initiatives. (Reward them for this in some way as well.) This can include advising on everything from a product extension to the look and feel of your website redesign. Members of your marketing round table will become natural ambassadors for the brand. (You can do this with simple video chat meetings – Zoom or GoogleMeet) 5) Video them – People are more likely to respond t0 a personalized video over a generic one any day. People’s email inboxes and newsfeeds are flooded with businesses trying to sell to them so much so that it’s hard to stand out in all of the noise today. One-to-one video is a highly effective way to stand out in the crowd. You can use a tool like Loom to send a prospect a quick personalized message about something you saw on their website, invite a lead to sign up for an event you’re having that you think would be valuable to them, or follow up with a potential client with a personalized video instead of an email. 6) Surprise them – I like to think I saved the best for last – few things get people talking faster than surprising them. This can include doing something that was out of the blue and much appreciated to just giving them more than they bargained for. I remember a PR firm that was pitching me some business and the account rep showed up to meet with an apple pie (I’m still talking about it.) I once worked with a financial planner that hired a mobile auto detail firm to detail his customer’s cars during their annual review – that created some buzz. The bottom line of course is that you’ve got to do good work, do something that somebody appreciates, and create an experience worth talking about, but then, prime the pump and leverage all that greatness.
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 17, 2022
In General Discussion
In honor of the legendary Martin Luther King Jr. Remember to keep moving! Enjoy your day.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 11, 2022
In General Discussion
Today's customers want the companies they buy from to make a difference in the world. Tying social causes into business goals has become an increasingly common practice, especially as the events of the past two years have unfolded. E-commerce businesses, especially smaller or newer ones, may be unsure of where to start when it comes to integrating social causes into their daily operations. Fortunately, there are many simple but effective ways for companies to give back and make the world a better place. 1. Collect Donations For A Relevant Cause Requesting donations at checkout is a great way for companies to mobilize their audience to make a difference. However, the company itself should always be leading the charge in these efforts. It is one thing to accept donations, but a donation campaign should always be relevant to the business. Customers will want to know their contributions are having a meaningful impact. - Rob Consalvo, Store Space Self Storage 2. Match Customer Sales With Donated Products One easy way is to donate one product or an equal one to communities in need. For example, we are part of a new initiative where for each chair sold, one similar product is donated to schools in need. Of course, there are so many other ways to do this, as long as one is making an impact. - Daniel Levy, Government Office Furniture 3. Get Involved In Social Causes The generic answer is revenue share with social missions or a messaging game to enhance your brand. The real impact, however, comes from direct involvement. If you are serious about the social cause, then direct your organization to become an evangelist for the cause. Lip service, messaging or donations may have short-term effects, but real involvement by leaders and followers is lasting. - Sid Mohasseb, Anabasis, Inc / Venture Farm 4. Donate A Portion Of Your Proceeds Donating a portion of proceeds from sales to various charities or nonprofit organizations is something we have always done as a company. This is something companies can place emphasis on during Giving Tuesday or around the holiday season. Another great idea: in lieu of getting holiday gifts for your clients, make a donation to a charity of their choice. It's incredibly important to give back! - Brittany Harrer Dolin, The Pocketbook Agency 5. Tie Your Business To Your Social Mission We tie our business directly to our social mission of assisting small and medium-sized businesses in selling to the government—something that large corporations have traditionally dominated. We offer clientele a lower up front hourly fee coupled with a commission to accommodate smaller budgets. Our clients absolutely appreciate that we put our money where our mouth is! - Maurice Harary, The Bid Lab 6. Embrace The Philosophy, Then Follow Through On It Although consumers now want sustainable, earth-friendly and diverse goods, they are not always willing to pay a premium for these services. I would suggest starting small. Embrace the philosophy in your company mission (think Bombas socks for instance) and then follow through on it through your donations of time, money and service. - James Langabeer, Yellowstone Consulting, LLC 7. Align Ambition And Action The vision, mission and values must align with behaviors. Organizations true to their purpose that aligns ambition with action are the real game changers. Daniel Goleman talks of the golden thread from the top of an organization to the grassroots. Customers expect organizations to walk the walk, be authentic and deliver on promises. - Marian Evans, Elevate BC Ltd 8. Communicate Your Contribution Connect your company's purpose to a social cause that inspires your team and your customers, and communicate that effectively so it becomes part of your brand's DNA. Show the tangible and measurable contributions to the cause you have selected when your customers are making transactions. They’ll know that with every purchase that they are having a positive impact on this world and changing lives. - Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5 9. Partner With Varied Charities Donating a portion of your proceeds to a charity is the simplest way to achieve this goal. Ideally, partnering with four to five charities across different interests and giving your customers the option to choose from one of them is the best route. One could be an animal charity while another could be cancer research or youth education. This way, you appeal to several customer passions and interests. - Ari Chazanas, Lotus West Properties 10. Embed Social Responsibility In Your DNA Going beyond TOM's “One for One" campaign or revenue gifting to your favorite NGO, e-commerce businesses can make social responsibility part of their DNA. For example, they can change their packaging to more innovative, sustainable solutions like compostable, biodegradable, all-natural or plant-based materials like mushrooms or seaweed. PWC reports that consumers find sustainable packaging important. Be intentional. - Silvia Mah, Ad Astra Ventures 11. Root Social Causes In The Higher Purpose First and foremost, it cannot be a marketing campaign. A social cause should be rooted in the higher purpose or the reason a business exists beyond making money, brought to life through shared values, culture, employees and felt through the benefits consumers are buying. It is a reason to believe and when consumers buy, they are sharing that mission and supporting that cause. - Margo Jay, 365 Integrated 12. Measure Impact To People, Planet And Profit Making a true difference in the world needs to be built into a company's business model rather than just a side thought. Starting with setting clear goals and measuring business impact to people, planet and profit is a good way to start. Building a culture that buys into those goals is critical to making a difference. - Oscar White, Beyonk 13. Consider Renting Or Recycling Products Consider renting your products or offering a path back to you for proper recycling or reuse. The environment cannot sustain the current linear "take, make, dispose" model any longer, and growth in the sharing economy is exploding. Plus, renting an item ten times over is often more profitable than selling that product one time. - Kelly Pigeon, loopt 14. Be Intentional With Gift-Giving Instead of giving gift cards to a store to clients when thanking them or celebrating the holiday season, consider giving them a gift card for a charitable cause they can select. They will appreciate the conscious effort you are making. If you do select a gift for a client, choose from a reputable company that is using eco-friendly practices and materials. - Emilia D'Anzica, Growth Molecules 15. Have A Heart Have a heart by donating to a worthy cause. We donate plants to a local Boy Scout troop and major universities for plant research on stem cell treatments and cancer preventative research. We also offer restoration plants to disaster-stricken areas and donate to nonprofit organizations. A little heart goes a long way with people. - Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery
15 Simple Ways To Tie A Social Mission To Your E-Commerce Business content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Jan 06, 2022
In General Discussion
With 2021 coming to an end, the tax season will soon begin. Small business owners will make their appointments to meet with CPAs to work on and submit their tax returns. Naturally, a good accountant will be able to file on time and do their best to lower their clients’ tax exposure and avoid audits. They also create financial reports at the end of the year and provide advice on estimated tax payments that should make during the year. However, a great accountant can do much more than that. After all, he or she knows better than anyone just how successful a business is and, in many cases what a business can do better, including ways to boost revenue and cut costs, improve cash flow, manage inventory, and secure small business financing. Above all, a competent CPA can help solve business problems. Never was that more evident than during the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) when millions of American small businesses had to compile documentation in order to take advantage of PPP funding opportunities. In September 2020, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), its business and technology arm, CPA.com, launched CPALoanPortal.com with Biz2Credit to streamline the process for CPA firms advising small businesses on loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program and additional small business funding options that clients may need to fund growth. The portal has been an effective platform for CPAs and their clients who sought government-backed business relief. To date, the portal has allowed users to process and obtain around 40,000 PPP loans totaling over $1 billion in business relief for small businesses. The offering has now expanded to term loan financing — a natural extension of capabilities for CPA firms. “CPA firms played a critical role in supporting small business owners throughout workplace shutdowns and the emerging recovery,” says Erik Asgeirsson, President and CEO of CPA.com. “As trusted advisors, they’re being asked to do more for their clients and need sophisticated tools to deliver these services efficiently and effectively.” More recently, the cloud-based financing platform added a business term loan option for CPA firms’ small business clients. The term loan option offers online applications, competitive financing terms, quick turnaround on loan decisions, and funding amounts ranging from $25,000 to $1 million at non-variable interest rates. The ability to capitalize quickly on opportunities can be an enormous difference maker for small and medium-sized businesses. “The evolution of the CPA Business Funding Portal reflects this expanding role, as well as the profession’s swift movement into business financing advisory services,” Asgeirsson says. For example, Tony Khait, CPA, PFS, the owner of Eco-Tax, Inc., a Brooklyn-based CPA firm, used the CPA Business Funding Portal over the past year to secure PPP funding and forgiveness for clients. He says he now plans to leverage the platform to support his clients’ future business financing needs. “No one knows my clients’ businesses better than my staff and me,” Khait said. “We’re looking at their financials every day. We know their short and long-term business goals. With the CPA Business Funding Portal, we can strengthen our connection as their trusted advisor by recommending the right term loan to meet their unique needs.” In addition to filing taxes and helping clients secure small business loans, CPAs also perform services such as providing virtual CFO services, developing financial projections, offering financial advice, and even playing a role in succession planning. When looking to find the right CPA, small business owners should consider more than just tax knowledge. A good accountant can make a dramatic difference for a small business owner by helping to improve reporting, planning, efficiency, and prepare for long-term business growth. If your business has fallen behind on its tax obligations, a CPA can frequently set up a reasonable payment plan with the IRS or state tax collector to get the payments up to date. The best CPA-client relationships are partnerships in which the CPA is a trusted advisor who can help guide the financial ship through times of smooth sailing and rocky waters. If you are looking to find someone, ask other business owners whom they use, inquire with your local chamber of commerce or Small Business Development Center (SBDC), or visit the AICPA directory. Ask for a list of services offered and the names of some references. If everything works out, find out how much the firm charges and establish the desired regularity of contact.
Beyond Tax Filing: How A CPA Can Help Your Small Business In 2022 content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Dec 29, 2021
In General Discussion
You may remember when Facebook launched. Everyone who heard about it had an initial knee-jerk reaction: “What’s the point?” And yet, before you could say “friend request,” everyone was on the social media platform. Soon after, business pages joined the mix. New customers and regular ones are active on social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Studies have shown that those same social media users are most likely spending hours each day on one or all of these social platforms. Doing so, they can discover new products from businesses like yours. But if you’re worried about keeping up with trends, going viral, or being heard in the ever-present noise of the online world, then take a deep breath. A robust local business social media strategy, also referred to social media marketing, is much simpler than you think. The best social media sites for business can depend on your industry. For most small businesses, building an active presence on these social platforms is critical to their marketing: Facebook Twitter Nextdoor Instagram LinkedIn Pinterest Snapchat Decide what’s most appropriate for you based on your business type, goals, and where your customers are. If you’re a local accountant, your presence might be a better fit for LinkedIn rather than Pinterest, where visual content is the raison d'etre. 1. Make your pages, claim your space It might seem like a no-brainer, but the first step to launching a successful social media account for your small business is making the account in the first place. This looks a little different depending on the platform, but generally, you sign up for a new account. When given the option to choose between a personal and business profile, choose business. 2. Stay on brand Your local business has a unique voice and identity that customers know within seconds. Whatever your identity is, your social media strategy and channels should reflect it. What makes you different or unique and why do your customers choose you over the competition? Take a moment to think about your brand. Does your restaurant source locally based ingredients? Do you use non-toxic chemicals for your hair salon? Do you provide the best customer service in your retail store? Do you share exclusive local market trends to home buyers for your real estate business? Creating social media accounts is a huge source of brand awareness. By ensuring your tone, messaging, and imagery are all consistent across each digital presence, you’re helping customers to recognize you immediately. 3. Let customers know you’re there Invite people to like your Nextdoor Business Page or follow your Instagram account in the simplest way possible: Tell them you have one. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, provided you’re polite and to-the-point. Some businesses like to run in-store promotions where liking a post or leaving a recommendation earns them a free item or a discount. Still, others put up a banner on their website announcing their new social channel. The best way to nudge people to your accounts may vary depending on your target audience. Local businesses can ask customers in person directly after a transaction while the positive experience is top of mind. In fact, it may be worth it to test a few different marketing strategies to see which is the most effective at bringing in potential customers. Whatever path you take, be sure to communicate the value of the social platform to your customers—you’re there to help them on and offline. In most cases, customers who have had a good experience are willing to help businesses they are loyal to. 4. Reply to all You’ll find out quickly that customers have something to say to you once your social media channels open—and you have to be prepared to respond. Social media is a way to connect across great distances despite digital barriers. People are used to talking directly to one another, to celebrities, and even to brands on social media. On Nextdoor, members that are verified residents in the neighborhood can reach out directly to local businesses and start 1:1 interactions. This means dedicating time and resources to social media management: answering questions and responding to complaints and questions. Leaving these unattended can be like leaving a garden alone—you’ll come back after a few weeks to an overgrown mess. Instead, take the opportunity to engage with your customers genuinely. They’ll appreciate the human touch and will remember that the next time they’re doing business with you. As a small business owner, you might have trouble prioritizing time for crafting the perfect social media profile, but with time and a reliable online presence, you’ll grow a loyal following that can be translated into offline foot traffic and transactions that will help your local business to blossom.
Social Media Tips for Small Businesses content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Dec 20, 2021
In General Discussion
Is there really a difference? Well, you might be surprised to know that branding is really the same no matter what the size of your business. The one main difference is that larger companies generally have more money to spend on advertising to promote and build their brand, but every company started out small. For the most part, small and large businesses follow the same steps to reach their branding goals. Step 1: Determine your target audience. Step 2: Create a brand mission statement. Step 3: Research other brands in your industry. Step 4: Outline the key qualities and benefits your brand offers. Step 5: Create a logo and tagline. Step 6: Form your brand voice. Step 7: Build a brand message. Step 8: Let your brand personality come through. Step 9: Integrate your brand into your entire business. Step 10: Be consistent. Step 11: Be your biggest brand advocate.
Is Branding Different For Small vs. Large Companies? content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Nov 30, 2021
In General Discussion
Hard Work + Preparation = Success content media
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Cierra Minnifield
Nov 26, 2021
In General Discussion
Why CRM is Important.. The core of any business whether it big or small are its clients or the customers and customer are considered king in marketing because without them your business will neither operate nor you will be able to pay salaries and bonuses to your employees. A business can be successful if customer relationship management is implemented. Customer’s demographics, their location, their spending habits, their engagement with your brand, their preferences, their feedback, and other vital information, all these data can be acquired from the CRM system. This in turn can help you can design your marketing campaign which will overall help in your business growth. 1. More sales can be increased to your existing customers by investing in CRM System Abundant data about the existing customer is only possible through CRM. To increase or boost your sales, data can be collected of any type to target the right customers with the right offer. One such example is web forms. You can create your customized form and put fields like customer’s names, their address, age, preference, family members, etc. or whatever you think is ideal to design a perfect marketing tool. This way you can send personalized gifts such as special loyalty discounts or free takeaway. 2. More leads can be generated if you invest in a CRM system CRM system can help you in several ways to generate more leads. For example, while using web forms you can offer freebies if visitors put their email addresses. That way you are getting prospective customers who may be interested in your product or services. The second way to generate leads is through customer referrals. You may ask how? If your existing customer’s engagement is analyzed by you, you can get the data of your satisfied customer. You can then ask satisfied customers to refer your company to their friends, family, or acquaintances. 3. Customer Service Improvement To retain customers, customer service is a must. Just like yours, a customer’s time is also very valuable. A customer will either be happy or unhappy with your products or services. While the happy ones will stay the unhappy ones will leave, unfortunately. So it is important to know who your unhappy customers are. This data can only be found out by using the CRM system Creatio because CRM provides data regarding customer satisfaction. It stores all the details in one central location and makes it easily accessible for your team and anyone from the company. By effectively using CRM you can then hear out their complaints or negative experiences and resolve them in a better way. Their complaints might be either defective products, misinformation, lack of guidance or below par after-sales services, etc.. Gaining valuable customer feedback is also possible through advanced CRM. All you need to do is send out customer surveys. 4. Improves efficiency in your team’s organization In the CRM system, all the details of interactions can be logged between your staff and your customers. Emails, phone calls, calendars, and everything is stored in one place for the smooth functioning of work. CRM can also remind you of your pending tasks that need to be completed. For instance, if a prospective customer asks you to follow up with them after a week if you had called them then this detail can be logged into the CRM system. So after a week, the CRM will remind you to call the customer. Your CRM is easily accessible can be accessed from anywhere from the world as it is could base and can store huge data and documents. So this way success can be achieved if there are proper team collaboration and organization. 5. Automation of daily tasks If tasks need to be done manually then it would take forever. To complete a task other sub-tasks need to be completed as it is all interrelated. Vital sales tasks are time-consuming like filling out forms, sending reports, addressing legal issues, etc. plus there is a chance of human error. That is why CRM comes to rescue. By investing in CRM the routine pressure of employees gets diminished because it is automated. So this way the CRM can take care of the details whereas the sales representatives can focus on closing sales and resolving customer queries and complaints. 6. Employee accountability can be achieved through CRM We know that if an organization grows or is growing big the customer also grows and for maintain that more and more number of employees is needed. Once the customer grows big there is also a chance of losing customers if everything is maintained manually. But with CRM you can assign your employees or team their roles and responsibilities and can keep track if they are going in the right direction or not. If not the problems can be identified and solved rather than playing the blame game. So there is transparency. This will also allow the employees to work on their weaknesses and allow them to grow further along with the organization’s goal mainly effective customer relationships. Conclusion So these were some of the top reasons why CRM is important for business and in today’s time it is almost inevitable. So in a nutshell, to drive your business there are many tools like lead planning tools, marketing tools, etc. but if you do not consider customers as your assets and underestimate them then these tools aren’t much handy. In fact, you will start losing them. So this is why CRM is necessary as it saves your money, time, and holds your employees responsible when you use CRM most effectively and efficiently. Above all, it creates loyal and satisfied customer that are not just happy but they spread the word of mouth publicity if they had pleasant experience and also refer your products or services to their friends, family and relatives. Isn’t that great? So what are you waiting for?
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Cierra Minnifield
Nov 16, 2021
In General Discussion
Welcome new members! So glad to have you on board. Please feel free to ask any questions here in our group forum as well as sharing any useful information on small businesses and entrepreneurship. Thank you! Cierra Minnifield Accountability Coach cminnifield@ppicw.com
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Cierra Minnifield
Nov 15, 2021
In General Discussion
Happy Monday! Here is a great small business article to start your week off right! Enjoy! 3 Debt Financing Options To Get Needed Capital For Your Business The old business adage that the time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining has never been more relevant than right now. Many businesses have seen a boost in activity over the last few months, but with the Delta variant still a threat and flu season officially underway, there may be yet another spike in Covid cases on the horizon. As this may result in new government restrictions, now is the time to access business capital that you may need later on, including considering debt financing options for your business. During the pandemic, you likely found a way to keep your business afloat through pivoting, innovating, or accessing government relief funds like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), or the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG). But, those funds are likely dwindling if not completely, and you may be wondering, “What’s next?” While you might not want to acquire more debt, that is likely the best bet for your business. There are no more federal grant programs on the horizon, and it is difficult to attract equity investors unless your business can scale quickly. And, even if you could attract equity investors, you would have to dilute your ownership in the business you built. While, of course, you have to repay debt, the advantage is you retain control of your business and typically can have a long time horizon to repay it. The first step in applying for loans is to prepare your business finances. That means getting your books up to date so you can generate profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets, making sure your tax returns are as current as possible, and ensuring you have a future-looking business plan so you can explain how you plan to use funds. Many small businesses and independent contractors who were not prepared accordingly missed out on opportunities in the past. Here are three debt financing options for your business that you can try to access: 1. Bank loans Working with a full-service bank is still almost required to run a business and source debt capital. Again, a lesson learned from PPP was that those businesses with strong banking relationships—not just an account but a personal relationship with an account manager—were able to apply and secure PPP loans at a much easier and faster pace. In addition, those businesses with accounts at local banks, rather than national chains, also fared much better. Banks will take a hard look at your credit score, business cash flow, last two years of tax returns, and planned use of funds before deciding on the size of a loan or line or credit, length of term, and interest rates. In many cases they will also want to collateralize your loan with either your businesses assets or, in some cases, your home. This means if you default on your loan, you’ll need to sell those assets or your home to repay the loan. It is a good idea to shop around for the right bank that can offer the best terms. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are also a good option if you live in an economically disadvantaged or underserved community. CDFIs are banks or credit unions, loan funds, and venture capital funds, whose goal is to broaden economic opportunity for low income and minority communities. These loans are more easily attainable, have lower interest rates, and come with business development help. The downside is the application times and receipt of funds can take much longer than banks or other funding sources. 2. Small Business Administration loans There are several types of SBA loans: Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) The EIDL program is a traditional SBA program for areas of the country hit by natural disasters like hurricanes, fires, or other unforeseen events that devastate communities. In the case of Covid, the SBA determined the entire country was a disaster area, allowing every business to apply for these loans. Applying for an EIDL loan is fairly easy and is done directly through the SBA website at www.sba.gov/eidl. The cap on EIDL loans is $500,000, with the typical loan around $150,000 with a 30-year repayment term. The money is meant for working capital to meet normal and customary expenses. Due to Covid, the SBA also instituted a two-year moratorium on the first payment, although interest does accrue. The interest rate on an EIDL loan is 3.5%, which is one of the lowest rates you will find. Non-profits may also qualify for an EIDL loan at a 2.5% interest rate. The Covid EIDL loans came with a grant portion as well that was $1,000 per employee up to 10 employees, or $10,000, although high demand reduced this amount to $1,000 regardless of your employee head count. Due to the ongoing effects of Covid, EIDL loans are still available through December 31, 2021, and if you already received one, you may be eligible for an increased loan amount. If you are eligible for an increase to your existing EIDL loan, the SBA will contact you directly with more information and instructions, so be on the lookout for that email. SBA 7(a) loans The most common SBA loan is the 7(a) program, which can be used for short- and long-term working capital, refinancing of existing debt, and the purchase of furniture, fixtures, and supplies. These loans are most useful if real estate is part of the equation, such as for the purchase or construction of a new building or the renovation of an existing building. It is not required, however. In order to apply, you’ll need the same paperwork basically required for a bank loan. This includes personal and business financial statements, such as balance sheets and profit-and-loss statements, tax returns, business licenses, and business plans, among other items. You apply for 7(a) loans through your bank and they are 85% guaranteed on loans up to $150,000 and 75% on loans greater than $150,000. SBA 504 loans SBA 504 loans provide long-term, fixed-rate financing of up to $5 million for major fixed assets that “promote business growth and job creation.” To be eligible for a 504 loan you must be doing business within the United States, have a net worth of less than $15 million, and have annual revenue after taxes of less than $5 million for the preceding two years. You apply for the loan through Certified Development Centers (CDCs), which are community partners of the SBA that promote economic development in their communities. The CDCs will also evaluate your business plan, management experience, and ability to repay the loan, among other factors. The 504 loans can be used for the purchase or renovation of existing buildings or land, new facilities, or long-term machinery and equipment. They cannot be used for working capital or inventory, consolidating, repaying or refinancing debt, or speculation or investing in rental real estate. The loans can be repaid over a 10-, 20-, or 25-year term, and interest rates are automatically tied to a percentage above the current market interest rates for 5- and 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds. 3. Small business bonds The SMBX, a new San Francisco-based fintech financing marketplace, has developed a platform for small and medium-sized businesses to issue bonds to their customers, community, and institutional investors. The company performs an underwriting service at no cost to determine how much credit the small business can qualify for, at what interest rate, and over how long a time horizon. The capital raised ranges from $25,000 to as much as $5 million. Interest rates typically range between 4% and 10% and the time horizon is 1-10 years. The SMBX platform offers a couple of features that other lending programs do not. First, if you borrow money from the SBA or a bank, you pay the principal and interest back to those entities. There is likely no other benefit to your business other than the loan. With SMBX your investors are your customers, and so every month they receive a reminder about your business when their principal and interest payment hits their account. Likewise, that capital stays within your community. Plus, even though your customers and community are not equity owners in your business as bonds are debt, they still feel the pride of ownership that can generate more sales and increased check sizes. Second, the SMBX also provides free marketing around your bond offering. So once your business is listed on the exchange, the SMBX marketing team will provide email and social media marketing to your online followers. They provide messaging and creative development and can also provide flyers, mailers, or advertising copy. In many cases, businesses are seeing the marketing services they receive are of greater value than the cost of the capital borrowed. Get capital for your business before you need it It is highly unlikely that there will be a full shutdown of the economy again, or at least not in the majority of the country. That being said, many restrictions are already coming back and many businesses are still recovering from last year. It is critical to avoid being undercapitalized in this business environment. While the thought of taking on debt (or taking on more debt) may not sound appealing, it is still the best bet for small businesses to obtain the capital they need to maintain, grow, and thrive.

3 Debt Financing Options To Get Needed Capital For Your Business content media
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Cierra Minnifield

Cierra Minnifield

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