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The Groomsman Suit Proves Perfect Fit for FedEx Competition

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-03-26 18:00
Sponsored Post

Finding a stylish and affordable groomsman suit can be a challenge and of course a strain on the budget. Meet the founders of The Groomsman Suit, a company offering stylish and affordable groomsman and wedding tuxedos minus the skyrocketing cost and frustrating process.

The idea of selling groomsman suits came from Jeanne and her husband Kevin Foley back in 2013. Struggling to find proper attire for Kevin and his groomsmen during their wedding planning led the two to the idea of The Groomsman Suit.

Today The Groomsman Suit is run by Jeanne Foley and Diana Ganz, two of the three founders. They bring a combined experience in apparel, customer service and branding. These two women are now thriving in a male-dominated industry.

I asked about what challenges they face being females selling apparel to men? And I loved when Diana responded, “Well in my opinion there is no better two people to sell suits to men.” Ah ha, touché Diana. She is so right! And when it comes to handling distributors, Jeanne does well at that part because her entire career has been in fashion. For the pair, understanding manufacturing and technical design is something they have got down pat.

This startup was the perfect business to enter into the FedEX Small Business Grant Contest, and they ended up being a top prizewinner. “We got the phone call and I seriously was so overwhelmed, excited, wanted to cry, wanted to scream, wanted to laugh…’” Jeanne said, expressing her feelings towards the award. When Jeanne and Diana entered the contest their goal was to at least make it to the top 100, but to their surprise, boom, they were selected winners.

The winning of the FedEx grant will allow Jeanne and Diana to get more visibility with their company, The Groomsman Suit. Being a part of the FedEX Small Business Grant Contest has been an amazing opportunity for both Jeanne and Diana, listen to more of their interview with me here below.

You could be the next big $25,000 grand prize winner. Registration is now open at http://smallbusinessgrant.fedex.com

Watch the FULL interview with The Groomsman Suit:

Image: The Groomsman’s Suit (from left, co-founders Kevin and Jeanne Foley, and Diana Ganz)

This article, "The Groomsman Suit Proves Perfect Fit for FedEx Competition" was first published on Small Business Trends

QuickBooks Introduces New Reorder Points that Tell When Inventory is Running Low

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-03-26 15:00

QuickBooks (NASDAQ: INTU) recently introduced a new inventory “Reorder Point” feature that lets businesses set a minimum quantity of a product for sale to keep on hand.

If you are a small business that handles inventory, the new QuickBooks Reorder Points feature is designed to help you know when your inventory is running low and remind you to reorder items. The feature also helps you easily create a purchase order to restock those items.

How New QuickBooks Reorder Points Works

The new QuickBooks Reorder Points adds improved inventory filter options and stock displays, reorder item details and customization of the physical inventory report. These added capabilities aim to help you gain better insight into your inventory levels and cash flow.

“Every business owner knows that if you are out of stock when a customer wants to buy, you cannot fulfill the order promptly — and you may lose the sale,” wrote the small business accounting software company in a post announcing the new feature on the official Intuit QuickBooks blog.

How to Set QuickBooks Reorder Points

According to Intuit QuickBooks, you can set a reorder point after you add an inventory item to QuickBooks in a few easy steps:

  1. Click the Gear icon > Products and Services.
  2. Find the inventory item in the list.
  3. In its Action column, click Edit.
  4. In the Reorder point field, enter the minimum quantity you want to have on hand. When the quantity on hand drops at or below the reorder point, QuickBooks reminds you to order more.
  5. Click Save and close.

The introduction of the new Reorder Points comes on the heels of QuickBooks’ recent release of its “Bundle” feature, a new way to bundle items in your inventory that often sell together. This is all part of QuickBooks’ ongoing effort to improve its platform.

Image: Intuit

This article, "QuickBooks Introduces New Reorder Points that Tell When Inventory is Running Low" was first published on Small Business Trends

Social Jukebox Provides Alternative to Hootsuite, Edgar

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-03-26 12:00

If you’re looking for a way to manage your social media accounts, you may want to give Social Jukebox a try.

What is Social Jukebox?

Social Jukebox is an automated social media management tool that allows you to load content into a “jukebox” and schedule how often you want your social media posts to go out. This system is completely automatic.

The tool allows you to easily link with your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

How does it Work?

It’s pretty easy really. You just need to choose your pricing plan and click subscribe.

The free plan gives you 2 jukeboxes, 5 stored Targeted Posts as well as 300 stored jukebox tweets or posts. However, free accounts are limited to 5 tweets and one post daily on Facebook and Twitter.

What is a Jukebox?

A jukebox is more like a box where you store all your content and you are at liberty to choose how often you would like the content to be posted.

Each jukebox gives you enough space to store thousands of posts and set them up for posting.

You can send posts or tweets over 100 times per day. Your schedule is also flexible. You can set different times for each day of the week. The beauty is, when the jukebox runs out of tweets, it automatically starts to post and tweet over again. This is completely automatic.

What is a Targeted Post?

Social Jukebox offers a targeted posts feature that allows you to schedule posts that can be repeated a few times to ensure your followers see them. This can be on a daily, weekly or annual basis.

Thank You Tweets

Social Jukebox even automates thank you tweets to recognize those who have mentioned you. The platform’s free plan allows you to automatically thank up to 50 people every Friday for their interaction. This is a real time saver compared to trying to track and collect all those who have mentioned you over the week.

Mentions Database

Social Jukebox automatically collects all of your business’s Twitter mentions and store them in your database. You will then be able to see your top promoters in a graph so you can send them a personal thank you message or develop strategies to engage them further.

How it compares with its Competitors

Like Hootsuite and Edgar, Social Jukebox does a good job allowing you to schedule your tweets and posts to get them in front of your customers at the best possible time so that you can focus on other things. Similar to Edgar, Social Jukebox most certainly solves the “disappearing updates” dilemma with its targeted post feature. However, the tool currently only supports LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts, while Hootsuite allows you to manage Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google Plus, MySpace, WordPress and Mixi — individual profiles and business pages.

Image: Social Jukebox

This article, "Social Jukebox Provides Alternative to Hootsuite, Edgar" was first published on Small Business Trends

Look Reveals the Hidden Practical Value in Hide and Go Seek Skills

Small Business Trends - Sun, 2017-03-26 09:00

You might assume good leaders already possess observational skills. You might assume that products are properly inspected or that editors have pored over every detail in a manuscript. You might also  assume that employees are taking proactive steps to stay safe. Still, you hear of product recalls, accidents, and simple factual errors that could have been avoided if the person only took the time to look. Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills is a resource guide to improving observational skills to help in this regard. It is a guide to improving error prevention before the error occurs.

What is Look About?

Look connects the dots between observational skill and your goals. Essentially, the book states, the same skills used in the childhood game of “Hide and Go Seek” can help adults locate product defects, missed opportunities (like clients) or potential safety hazards. The author emphasizes this connection because we often make the mistaken assumption that observational skills don’t need to be trained. After all, it’s just  a question of looking carefully, right?

Wrong!

Observational skills are more than just “looking.” They are a collection of skills that can be refined with time and practice (as the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes can attest!) Look, in particular, focuses on a primary observational skill: matching the correct observational perspective (long-distance, contrasting or focused) to your objective.

To teach readers how to do this, author James Gilmore introduces the concept of “Six Looking Glasses”, an idea he adapted from an expert in lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. As in de Bono’s “Six Hats” method, Gilmore explains how adopting specific mindsets allows an observer to achieve different perspectives. Specifically, Gilmore shows readers how to choose a “looking glass” to match the perspective and objective they want to achieve.

To show how this works, take an example given in the book of a person asked to check a car for damage. Ideally, the inspector would have a checklist of items to focus on. This approach is called the “magnifying glass” perspective. But let’s say that the inspector’s boss notices that a particular type of damage is under-reported. Instead of criticizing the employee, the manager might adopt a different “glass” (a different perspective testing out a different set of assumptions) and determine the results from using that perspective.

Gilmore is an author, writer, adjunct professor at the University of Virginia, lecturer and co-founder of Strategic Horizons, LLP. His book, “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want” looks at how businesses can avoid being viewed as contrived, disingenuous or phony in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly perceptive.

What Was Best About Look?

The best part of Look is the physical and mental shift that Gilmore lays out for readers. Many books ask leaders to step outside of their current point of view to gain a new perspective. But few books actually show how they can do this. Look shows readers how to do this and gives them a framework to continue using their new found perspective — or even alter it further, if they wish! Gilmore’s book achieves this objective and reinforces the concept with a series of everyday examples —  grocery shelves etc. — designed to help readers practice the observational skills he promotes.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Look approaches observational skills from two perspectives: the physical — how you actually look at something — and the mental — how you think about the way you look at something. The book’s emphasis, though, is predominantly on the physical perspective. In other words, Gilmore emphasizes teaching readers how to go out and look for stuff. More emphasis on the mental shift and the business implications of that shift might make the book a bit more helpful for business readers.

Why Read Look?

At its core, Look is about thinking. It’s about matching the right tool to the right strategy. Business owners can become excessively focused on one view of their business — this month’s sales numbers, for example. This can cause them to lose track of the bigger picture — long-term survival. Many business experts have commented on this failure, but few offer a mental framework for coping with it. Look provides that framework.

On top of that, the book could finally help you find those pesky car keys you’re always misplacing!

This article, "Look Reveals the Hidden Practical Value in Hide and Go Seek Skills" was first published on Small Business Trends

Franchise Event Can Help You Grow Your Business in South Florida

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-25 13:30

Interested in starting or growing a franchise business?

If you’re looking to start or expand a franchise business in the South Florida area, you’re in luck. The South Florida Regional Franchise Seminar is just around the corner. On March 29, the Fort Lauderdale event will feature the Franchise Consulting Company and some of its leading franchise partners.

You can learn all about the process of growing a franchise business in the area, while growing your network of other franchise business owners and community members.

Learn more about the South Florida Regional Franchise Seminar, along with some other interesting upcoming opportunities in the Featured Events section. Then check out even more upcoming business events in the list below.

To see a full list or to submit your own event, contest or award listing, visit the Small Business Events Calendar.

Featured Events, Contests and Awards

South Florida Regional Franchise Seminar
March 29, 2017, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Franchise Consulting Company is proud to present our regional seminar to explore the world of franchising in South Florida on Wednesday March 29, 2017 5:30-9:00. We are excited to be joined by several of our leading US franchise partners.

EntreLeadership 1-Day
April 11, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Grow yourself, your team & your profits! At EntreLeadership 1-Day, you will learn the six essentials of business: leadership, people, money, time, team, and higher calling. Dave Ramsey will be joined by business experts Chris Hogan & Christy Wright.
Discount Code
SMALLBIZ10 ($10 off)

ICON17
April 25, 2017, Phoenix, Ariz.

ICON17 is a 3-day conference for small business owners. It’s packed with inspiring keynote speakers, educational breakout sessions on modern business strategies, sales & marketing best practices, Infusionsoft product training, networking.

TECHSPO Toronto 2017
May 18, 2017, Toronto, Ontario

TECHSPO Toronto 2017 is a 2-day technology expo which takes place at the Toronto Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. TECHSPO Toronto brings together developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, innovators and evangelists looking to set the pace in our advanced world of technology. TECHSPO Toronto 2017 promises to be better than ever and we’re excited to see all the amazing tech companies and talent that will be joining.

Secret Knock
May 22, 2017, Los Angeles, Calif.

Secret Knock is going to be the single greatest event for the top entrepreneurs and action-takers in the world to connect, share ideas, and help take each other to the next level. Each of the attendees have believed in themselves enough to get to where they are, and they are not stopping now. Secure your application for one of the few spots left at the Secret Knock.

Sales World 2017
November 08, 2017, Online

Sales World 2017 takes place November 8th to 9th, 2017, Online; Live and On Demand. It is the largest Sales Industry Event in the World and will be attended by over 10,000 Sales Professionals. It’s the one sales event you can’t afford to miss!

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 – Digital Marketing Conference
November 14, 2017, Online

DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017 Digital Marketing Conference takes place November 14th to 16th, 2017. Whether your goal is to reinforce customer loyalty, improve lead generation, increase sales, or drive stronger consumer engagement, DIGIMARCON WORLD 2017’s agenda will help attendees enhance their marketing efforts. Sessions will focus on building traffic, expanding brand awareness, improving customer service and gaining insight into today’s latest digital tools.

More Events More Contests

This weekly listing of small business events, contests and awards is provided as a community service by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.

Fort Lauderdale Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Franchise Event Can Help You Grow Your Business in South Florida" was first published on Small Business Trends

10 Tips for Connecting With Customers Online

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-25 12:00

If you want your business to succeed online, you can’t just sell to customers — you have to actually connect with them. Luckily, there are tons of different ways you can do this. And members of our small business community are well versed in all of those different techniques. Check out some of their top tips below.

Learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Connecting Through Instagram

If you use Instagram for your business, then you have access to a great tool for connecting with customers and other members of your target audience. But there are some do’s and don’ts to consider when using the platform. Lexie Lu elaborates in this post on Design Roast.

Consider User Intent With Your SEO Efforts

Your SEO efforts aren’t likely to go very far if you don’t put yourself in your customers’ or visitors’ shoes. That’s why user intent can be a very important part of the process, as Julia McCoy explains in this Content Marketing Institute post.

Start Caring About Organic SEO

When building a blog or other website, SEO can be key. But organic SEO may differ from the techniques you’re used to reading about. In this post, Jane Sheeba of The DoSplash Blog explains what organic SEO is and why your business should care. And BizSugar members commented on the post here.

Connect With People in These Facebook Groups

Facebook groups can be a great way to find and communicate with like-minded individuals on social media. If you’re a blogger, you might want to check out the groups in this Mostly Blogging post by Janice Wald. And then see what the BizSugar community had to say about Facebook groups here.

Apply Emotional Marketing to Your Facebook Ads

When connecting with customers online, it can help to appeal to people’s emotions. That’s also true when it comes to Facebook ads. This Kissmetrics post by Karola Karlson includes some genius ways you can apply emotional marketing to your Facebook ads.

Use These Social Media Marketing Tips for Local Businesses

If you run a local business, you can still use social media to connect with your customers online. There are plenty of effective tactics to consider. Blair Evan Ball of Prepare 1 shares some tips for local businesses in this post.

Determine Your Audience of One

Connecting with an individual can be a lot easier than trying to connect with a whole group. That’s why some businesses find it beneficial to create an “audience of one.” Learn more in this Resonance Content Marketing post and video by Rachel Parker. Then check out what BizSugar members had to say here.

Create More Personalization in Your Business

Personalization can be a great way to really connect with customers and get their attention online. But in order for your business to really employ complete personalization, you’ll need the key elements listed in this Target Marketing post by Stephen H. Yu.

Blow Up Your Blog Visits via Community Management

Blogging isn’t just a way for you to promote your business and share helpful content. It can also help you build a community online. And if you’re able to effectively manage that community, you can give your blog a major boost. This Basic Blog Tips post by Disha Dinesh offers some insights on the topic.

Build Your Own Content Marketing Strategy

If your business doesn’t have a content marketing strategy by now, it may finally be time to consider jumping on the bandwagon. This Biz Epic post by Ivan Widjaya goes into more detail about why such a strategy is so important.

If you’d like to suggest your favorite small business content to be considered for an upcoming community roundup, please send your news tips to: sbtips@gmail.com.

At Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "10 Tips for Connecting With Customers Online" was first published on Small Business Trends

It May Be a Good Idea to Change Your iCloud Password Right Now

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-25 09:30

 

For the many small business owners that are using iCloud, the newest hacker threat to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a serious issue.

The Turkish Crime Family, a syndicate of hackers, is demanding a ransom from Apple, according to reports.

The ransom would supposedly buy the safety of thousands of iCloud and Apple email accounts to which hackers have already gin access.

Apple is saying the claims are false and their systems show no signs of breach.

What’s hanging in the balance is the data of up to 559 million Apple email and iCloud accounts. It’s these accounts that the hackers are threatening to wipe clean by April 7. Currently more than 800 million people and businesses are using iCloud to store and backup their valuable data.

For those who don’t wish to take the chance that hackers are telling the truth, the following action steps will minimize your exposure.

iCloud Security Tips Change Your Password

The first and immediate action you should take is changing your password.

Password managers do a great job of generating and storing hard-to-crack passwords.

Break the Chain

Apple’s stance on the current issue is that the breach resulted from third party services being compromised. Account holders that used the same password for sites like LinkedIn were the ones affected.

Break the chain between your various accounts by assigning them different, securely generated, passwords.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), adds an extra layer of verification before log-in. While this additional step may be considered inconvenient, it could be the difference between a hacker accessing and failing to access your account.

Implement Better Password Policies

Small business owners should not underestimate the need for password policy. Protecting the data of your business and clients should be added to your standard list of priorities.

Conclusion

One of the promises that Apple asserted with iCloud is that customers would never have to worry about their passwords again. The only safe assumption at this point is that your password remains the only obstacle between hackers and your data.

iCloud Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "It May Be a Good Idea to Change Your iCloud Password Right Now" was first published on Small Business Trends

Why the Middle Class Comeback Could Be the Key to Saving America

Small Business Trends - Sat, 2017-03-25 07:30

With the Global Recession, a housing crisis, the internet bubble, rising college costs, increasing student debt and more, the middle class has been hit hard in the past few decades. While these things may seem to cast a rather negative light on the prospects of America’s middle class, Munir Moon doesn’t think so. In his book, The Middle Class Comeback: Women, Millennials, and Technology Leading the Way, he argues that the middle class (both the current and aspiring members) is entering a period where their collective actions could radically transform America as we know it.

What is The Middle Class Comeback About?

If you ask any economist, magazine editor or politician, the middle class is struggling financially. To be more honest, it is shrinking and shrinking fast. This is important because the American middle class is the financial and social anchor of American life. It’s the image most people have in mind when they think of an “American” family. It’s the group politicians campaign to reach. It’s the group that all other levels of American society are measured against. Without the American middle class, there is no America as we know it.

Despite concerns about this pivotal group’s decline, Munir Moon believes there is a reason to be optimistic. The news isn’t all bad. In fact, there are segments of the population and sectors of the economy where the middle class ideal seems to still be a reality. Those sectors are where Moon argues we should be focusing. But where are they? Moon chooses to focus on two areas, demographics (women and Millennials in particular) and technology. He argues these groups — women, Millennials and the technology sector — have the ability to transform decades-old industries in need of rejuvenation. He also believes they can transform education, the workforce, medicine, politics and America’s taxation system.

The Middle Class Comeback contends that capitalism and democracy are adaptable. When a certain industry doesn’t serve its customer or client base, it fails or gets remixed into something that is useful to the needs of that customer base. The changes of the future will be fueled by the dynamic shifts of demographics and technology. There will be more Millennials, more women in the labor force and positions of leadership, and more technology transforming how society interacts. These changes will in turn bring changes in products and services consumers purchase, the politicians they vote for and the policies they support. With that collective power comes a collective potential for the middle class to completely revolutionize almost every aspect of American society.

Moon is an author, entrepreneur, and commentator on social policy and issues for the Huffington Post and LA Progressive.

What Was Best About The Middle Class Comeback?

The best part of The Middle Class Comeback is the action-oriented optimism that fills the entire book. Many books praise the ingenuity of the middle class, but they contain more political rhetoric than policy. The Middle Class Comeback maintains the same amount of optimism without falling into that trap. The focus in this book is on exploring the potential of America’s future by exploring the future created by the most promising trends of today.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

The Middle Class Comeback is a welcome dose of optimism for readers who are tired of hearing nothing but negative news. In that optimism, it glosses over social issues that don’t have an easily defined solution. To its credit, the book discusses the need for more work in the areas of race relations, women’s rights and representation, among other issues. The book, however, doesn’t really provide more than a simple optimistic overview. A deeper exploration of those issues and how they relate to the economy, possibly in future books, would yield more solutions for the future of middle-class America.

Why Read The Middle Class Comeback?

The Middle Class Comeback was written for those readers who want to dig a little deeper into economics (particularly in the areas of technology, healthcare or Millennials). The middle class has mythic status in the eyes of the American public and politicians alike. Moon dives into that mythic side and asks, “What makes America’s middle class so great?”. His enthusiastic, but nuanced, answer to this question is an exploration into the potential and hope behind America’s powerful social and cultural engine. Moon’s book shows why and how (in a lot of cases) America’s middle class has a lot more power than its members might believe.

This article, "Why the Middle Class Comeback Could Be the Key to Saving America" was first published on Small Business Trends

Instacart Suit Again Raises Employee Misclassification Issues

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 15:30

With more and more businesses utilizing the services of independent contractors, it’s important to understand some of the potential risks involved. Instacart, the on-demand grocery delivery service, just learned one of these lessons the hard way.

Employee Misclassification Lawsuit

Workers who bought and delivered groceries for the company just settled a class-action lawsuit with Instacart, reportedly receiving thousands of dollars in back pay. The reason? Workers claim that they should have been classified as employees rather than contractors. And as such, they’d be owed the same benefits and protections as Instacart employees.

Instacart has since changed its employment structure to classify more workers as actual employees. There still seems to be some confusion over the tipping structure for employees. But the company says that it has made some positive changes in that area as well.

Unfortunately for both businesses and contractors, issues like this aren’t all that uncommon.  Although the number of platforms supporting the gig economy continues to grow, the outlook from those within the community is not always positive.

Since the lawsuit against Instacart was first filed in 2016, there’s been plenty of online discussion about the issue.

So, how’s the gig economy working for you? https://t.co/BmGSATbyRr

— ? Andrea K. (@AndieCrispy) March 24, 2017

@Instacart since when your shoppers are required to wear IC shirts.They are contractors.Train your managers to get things right or #lawsuit

— Alan Smith (@alansmith4321) December 22, 2016

@Instacart I love your service, but your Driver say something about a class action lawsuit. What that about

— D.F.T.G. (@DFTGVP) December 4, 2016

Your goofy t-shirts does not hide the fact that you are pocketing the customers money that’s intended for the shopper. #instacart #lawsuit pic.twitter.com/L9xbWE8Nu6

— ServiceChargeScam (@TheNextWebVan) November 12, 2016

Instacart isn’t the first online food delivery service to be hit by suits in recent years. GrubHub, DoorDash, Caviar were all sued for employee misclassification in 2015.

It’s yet another growing pain for the fledgling gig economy and a reminder to businesses of all sizes of the importance of strongly distinguishing between contractors and employeees.

Image: Instacart

This article, "Instacart Suit Again Raises Employee Misclassification Issues" was first published on Small Business Trends

Small Business Headlines: New Website Tools from GoDaddy, Wix

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 13:30

When building a website for your small business, there are tons of different things to consider. You need hosting. You need a domain. You need visuals, and more.

This week, small businesses looking to build or update their websites received a couple of new options. One is a new hosting service from GoDaddy specifically for ecommerce and high traffic sites. And another is a potential new source for stock images thanks to Wix’s acquisition of DeviantArt.

You can read about these updates and more below in the Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends GoDaddy Launches Business Hosting for eCommerce, High Traffic Sites

As small business owner your goal is to grow, and eventually you will. The new GoDaddy Business Hosting is designed for that very same reason, because it combines tools that are essential for high-traffic, e-commerce, and resource-intensive websites.

Wix Acquires DeviantArt Revealing New Stock Photo Niche

Israel-based Wix.com (NASDAQ:WIX) recently acquired DeviantArt, an online community for artists, art enthusiasts and designers, for $36 million. Wix, which helps small business to build and operate websites, will have access to DeviantArt’s over 325 million pieces of original art as well as its more than 40 million registered members.

Synup Offers Alternative to Yext for Small Businesses with Multiple Listings Online

Synup is a local business citation management platform that manages and boosts local SEO efforts for agencies, enterprises and small businesses with multiple locations. What is a Business Citation? Citations simply refers to your business name and address mention on other webpages. An example is an online yellow pages directory, Google Maps, Apple Siri and so on.

Former Microsoft Employee Helps Small Businesses Embrace the Cloud

Mark Furr, the founder of LAN Scape Solutions Productivity Partners, a Microsoft Partner, recently spoke to Small Business Trends about using cloud-based technology both to launch his business and to help clients improve productivity.

Employment Millennials Looking for Small Business Jobs Deep in the Heart of Texas and OKC

It’s generally assumed that millennials are seeking jobs in coastal cities — New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles. But new data from Indeed.com shows that millennials looking to work for small businesses are actually narrowing their searches toward inland cities.

McDonald’s Incident Shows Importance of CPR Training for Your Employees

A McDonald’s employee saved the life of a Miami, Fla. police officer by jumping out the drive-thru window Tuesday. Pedro Viloria, the employee, noticed something odd when the off-duty officer and her two children pulled up to receive their order, reports ABC News.

Unpaid Invoices Prevent Small Businesses from Creating 2.1 Million New Jobs (Infographic)

For one week a month, jobs reports dominate the headlines. Political sides argue the implications of the numbers. And everyone wants to know — who’s responsible? You may never hear slow job growth numbers being blamed on unpaid invoices to small businesses, though.

Green Business Solar Energy is Already Really Efficient — But Still Improving (Watch)

Capturing the sun’s rays and converting them into electricity is a complicated process. But it’s one that humans have actually almost mastered at this point. The solar industry is still growing and evolving. But basic solar panels, those made from crystalline silicon, are now about as efficient as they physically can be.

Ooops! Could General Mills Bee Conservation Efforts Actually Harm the Environment? (Watch)

Even the most well intentioned initiatives can have negative consequences if you don’t do enough research before launching. Just ask General Mills. The company, famous for cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, which has a bee as its mascot, recently launched a “Bring Back the Bees” campaign.

Marketing Tips Animoto Update Targets Small Business With Square Video Capability

Designed partially so small businesses and their marketing departments can compete with bigger budget firms and utilize the online and mobile space more effectively, the social media video sharing company Animoto has launched a square format for its Marketing Video Builder.

Small Businesses Should Still Rely on Google and Facebook Ads, Report Reveals

According to the latest report from research firm eMarketer, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) are continuing to consolidate their hold on digital advertising. The firm says that total digital spending will increase by 16 percent this year to $83 billion.

Small Biz Spotlight Spotlight: SupportYourApp Helps Tech Startups With Customer Support

Customer support is an important function for any business. But it can be especially vital for tech startups. And that’s specifically the type of business that customer service outsourcing company SupportYourApp aims to help. The company provides outsourcing services and other customer support for startups and software companies.

Small Business Operations Obamacare vs. Trumpcare: What’s the Best Solution for Small Businesses?

Health coverage for everyone is a goal that most can agree on, but that is where agreement stops. President Donald Trump is pushing for repeal and replacement of The Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare. The problem is his American Health Care Act (AHCA) proposal is worse for small businesses and the working classes than the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was.

Lankford Pushes Flexibility Act to Limit Small Business Regulation

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) has introduced The Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2017 aimed at streamlining and improving the regulatory process for American small business.

Startup Navy and Air Force Veterans Win SBA Honors for 2017

An Air Force veteran who founded a medical logistics company in a cramped rental unit and a U.S. Navy veteran who seeks out contracts to benefit other servicemen and women are just two of this year’s Small Business Person of the Year winners as chosen by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Ginjan Brothers Brand Uses Social Media Strategy to Win FedEx Prize

America is the home to ingenuity and small business success. Meet the founders of Ginjan Brothers, LLC, a Harlem-based beverage company that specializes in traditional African beverages. It is a small business that develops, markets and sells a delicious Ginger juice called “GINJAN.” Two entrepreneurial brothers, Mohammed and Ibrahima Diallo, run the company.

Mobile Technology Business Users Beware, AT&T GoPhone Unlimited Data Offer Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

A new unlimited data plan from AT&T (NYSE:T) recently announced for the carrier’s GoPhone customers may have small business owners excited. But the new option comes with some serious constraints. Details Behind the GoPhone Unlimited Data Offer The unlimited data plan costs $60 per month.

BlackBerry Introduces Privacy Shade and Other Updates

As BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) fully adopts Android as its operating system, the company is bringing the security features it is renowned for to an OS with a dubious track record when it comes to security. This includes regular updates as well as introducing new apps, which address security and privacy issues.

Image: GoDaddy

This article, "Small Business Headlines: New Website Tools from GoDaddy, Wix" was first published on Small Business Trends

Ben Lazarov of Zenefits: Human Capital Management Should Improve Experiences for Employees and SMBs

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 12:00

Salesforce held their Small Business Basecamp event here in Atlanta attended by hundreds of entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners. It was a day filled with lots of great panels, sessions and networking opportunities – all focused on helping SMBs efficiently move their businesses forward.

One of the partners of the event is Zenefits, a cloud-based human resource software provider for small and midsize companies. With human capital management becoming more prominent in companies of all sizes, I had the opportunity to speak with Ben Lazarov, Senior Enterprise Account Executive for Zenefits, to better understand what HCM has to offer growing small businesses.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. You can see the whole conversation in the embedded video. And let me send a special thank you to Monique Johnson of Live Video Lab and Corey Webb of Webb Consulting Company for producing this video.

* * * * *

Small Business Trends: Before we talk about human capital management (HCM), particularly, tell us a little bit about Zenefits.

Ben Lazarov: Zenefits is the number one all-in-one HR platform. We help companies from two employees to a thousand employees manage their back office, connect payroll, benefits and HR all in one place.

Small Business Trends: The term human capital management. Tell us what that is.

Ben Lazarov: I think of it more as an employee’s experience from hire to fire. I say employee’s experience. It’s also the company’s experience, too. Being able to manage everything from new hire paperwork, to benefits enrollment, to setting somebody up on payroll, and since we’re at the Salesforce conference, being able to connect a lot of back office business systems as well.

Small Business Trends: Where does HCM fit in for smaller businesses?

Ben Lazarov: I think it’s trending towards being able to implement something quicker at a more cost effective rate. If you mentioned human capital management to somebody today, they’d probably think of a company like an Oracle or a Workday. Typically small businesses have always managed those things on paper or Excel, and they always talk about the file cabinet they have in their office. Companies are now trending towards being able to use something that’s easier for them, easier for their employees, that’s mobile, to help with their employee experience.

Small Business Trends: Maybe give us an example or two of how small business would use HCM.

Ben Lazarov: Let’s say you start work tomorrow. First day, you come into a business, typically people are always plagued with a stack of paperwork. That’s your first experience. You come in, you fill out your name and your address 15 times before you get to do anything new. I think with Zenefits, or with any modern human capital management today, we’re streamlining that process. We’re educating the employees up front and allowing them to have a better experience on day one.

Small Business Trends: When is a time that a small company should start thinking about implementing a HCM solution?

Ben Lazarov: I’ve talked to companies that have two employees and they want to be able to prepare themselves for growth. I don’t think there’s ever a time that’s too soon. At each stage of a business, one to 50, 50 to 100, 100 to plus, you’re going to have different issues that face the business from a HR, compliance and benefits standpoint, but it’s better to get started early than wait around.

Small Business Trends: Are there certain aspects that are more relevant to small businesses when it comes to HCM versus what big enterprises are faced with?

Ben Lazarov: I think what’s interesting is small businesses today are trying to stay cutting edge. They’re looking for the next best thing to propel their business and to grow their business. A lot of these small businesses look at Zenefits as a thought leader and a space to help them determine what they should be doing from an HR standpoint, from a benefits standpoint, and even from a CRM standpoint. You look to Salesforce at their AppExchange, a lot of companies go to them to see what their integrations are. I think the same thing is for Zenefits. They come to our app exchange to see what we think are the best applicant tracking systems, or the best performance management systems. Then they’re able to integrate it into our platform.

Small Business Trends: Very cool. When you think about small businesses today, there’s a lot of technology talk that’s coming at them. What’s the best way for them to look at using HCM, implementing it?

Ben Lazarov: I talk to so many companies on a monthly basis and the biggest problem that these small businesses have is they have a lot of different systems. They have one system for time tracking. They have one system for pay role. They have one system for insurance, and from a business standpoint, they need somebody to help them manage it. That’s where they turn to us and, obviously, stay compliant while doing it.

Small Business Trends: What are the pieces of the platform that they should be aware of?

Ben Lazarov: Payroll, time and attendance tracking, time off tracking. Our mobile app allows employees to manage work flows, but mainly, just helping get their employees on-boarded. There’s so much that goes into that, like I said, the documents and filling out paperwork for the employee, first of all, and then obviously for the administrator on the back end. They always have to set people up on payroll and then obviously set them up on insurance. With Zenefits, it’s just one place and everything else is updated.

Small Business Trends: Last think I want to ask you about is Zenefits recently did a benefit study around SMBs. Will you talk a little bit about that? What were some of the key findings from it?

Ben Lazarov: Yeah, we had about 8,000 companies respond to that survey. It was really great benefits benchmarking. I’d say one common theme that I hear when I talk to most companies, they always want to know what other businesses are doing, always. One key component of that is benefits, and so some key findings were that companies are actually contributing over 25% more than what they actually need to from a benefits contribution standpoint. I think they use Zenefits to stay competitive in the market. From a benefit standpoint, we also help them manage things like commuter benefits, and 401K, and flexible spending accounts. It was interesting to see all of the data around each segment of the United States from those small businesses. They’re investing in their employees. They want to be an employer of choice.

Small Business Trends: I want to make sure the people know where they can go to learn more about Zenefits and also learn more about the study.

Ben Lazarov: Zenefits.com. Go ahead and request a demo if you want to see the technology. You fill out a request demo form and we’ll get in touch with you.

This article, "Ben Lazarov of Zenefits: Human Capital Management Should Improve Experiences for Employees and SMBs" was first published on Small Business Trends

LuminAID Goes from Shark Tank Funding to FedEx Win

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 10:30
Sponsored Post

At this stage of our existence here in the U.S., electricity is often taken for granted. But one natural disaster and the lights could go out. I remember being without power for five days after a hurricane and it seemed like we were suddenly back in the dark ages.

An innovative device created by Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork called LuminAID has changed the game with an innovative, inflatable and portable lighting device. LuminAID started as a simple class project and now is a true disaster relief product. LuminAid is one of the prize winners in the 2016 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest and recently I got the chance to interview Andrea, one of the co-founders.

The core idea was for the product to be solar, integrated with an inflatable structure so it packs flat, is water-proof, and floats. “The original design was a pillow shape device to keep it simple and fold easily. It could be distributed in large numbers to fulfill the needs after disasters” said Andrea when asked how they came up with the idea and design.

The first product was soft launched through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Of course, their idea was initiated for natural disaster relief however they realized it would be useful for things other than disasters. The crowdfunding helped them learn more about their potential markets. “Our biggest market is for people buying it for use on camping trips, hiking, boating (i.e. waterproof), and inside personal emergency kits.”

You might remember these two inventors from a little TV show appearance. Back in 2014, Andrea and Anna entered and were selected to pitch on the hit reality television series Shark Tank. Mark Cuban, one of Shark Tank’s investors, offered the ladies a deal and has become their first investor.

I asked how they heard about the FedEx Small Business Grant contest.. Andrea stated, “We use FedEx cause we ship all over the world. We received an email about the contest. We love every opportunity to share our story and engage our customers.”

Today Andrea and Anna are looking to expand their business to hire more employees. They currently have a full-time team and they believe the grant will be a great chunk of money to put forth to expanding their team.

You could be the next big $25,000 grand prize winner. Registration is now open at http://smallbusinessgrant.fedex.com

Watch the FULL interview with LuminAID:

Image: LuminAID

This article, "LuminAID Goes from Shark Tank Funding to FedEx Win" was first published on Small Business Trends

Trello: Is It Just Another Collaboration Platform — or Something More?

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 09:30

Trello is a project management and collaboration platform that utilizes the concepts of boards, cards and lists for efficient task management.

The tool allows users to discuss a task or a project in real-time while keeping all team members informed through activity logs, task assignments and email notifications.

Here are some of Trello’s key features.

Trello Basics Boards

Trello is made up of three main components — Boards, Lists and Cards. Let’s start with the big picture — Boards.

You can keep up with projects by organizing them into boards. Boards are for broad subjects, topics or categories and they are the largest organizational group within the platform.

List

Each Trello board is broken down into smaller units known as lists. They are great for setting up different “buckets” to organize your tasks.

Use lists to represent different phases in a project or use them to assign tasks to specific individuals within your team.

Using lists to assign to-do items helps with accountability as it points to the person who is ultimately responsible for the completion of a task.

However, as you set up your lists, remember to separate the “to-do” from the “doing” list as it provides a better visualization for the team.

Cards

Cards are the smallest organizational feature and are used to represent ideas, tasks, etc. Cards can easily be moved from one list to another.

You can attach files and images, add checklists, comment, assign members, color labels and add deadlines to cards. Depending on your needs, you can keep cards highly detailed or simple and easy to read. It all depends on what’s best for your business.

How it Works

Trello allows you to create as many boards, lists, cards and teams as you wish — all for free. Simply drag people from the sidebar and drop them on cards to assign them tasks. The beauty of it is that all team members are able to see the same board at the same time.

You can quickly start a discussion with comments and attachments. Mention a team member in a comment to make sure they get notified. You can also add files directly from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or Box. Liven your activity with emojis.

Trello sends out instant notifications once something happens on the board. The notifications are sent via email and can also be accessed from within the tool.

All of Trello’s activity takes place in real-time. When you move a card, for instance, your team will be able to see the changes in real-time regardless of the device they are using.

If you have a lot of people and boards in Trello, use teams to keep everyone connected. You can create as many teams as you wish.

Security

Trello is a highly safe and secure platform. You get to have full control over who sees your boards. All data is transmitted over a secure SSL/HTTPS connection. This is the same encryption technology that most banks use. You also get off-site backups of your encrypted data in case of disasters.

Pricing

Trello offers three plans. The Free version, Business Class and Enterprise plan. The free version gives you a whole lot of functionality, including the ability to attach files up to 10 MB from your computer or link any file from your Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or Google Drive. However, if you are looking to attach files larger than 10 MB’s and also get priority email support, among other features, then you should consider using the $9.99 per user per month Business Class plan. The Enterprise plan is also available for larger companies that are looking for the highest levels of support and security.

Conclusion

Trello’s simplistic and open-ended interface makes this a perfect tool for collaboration. There’s really no end to what you can do with Trello. The fact that it’s affordable makes it a perfect tool for startups.

Images: Trello

This article, "Trello: Is It Just Another Collaboration Platform — or Something More?" was first published on Small Business Trends

Synup Offers Alternative to Yext for Small Businesses with Multiple Listings Online

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 08:30

Synup is a local business citation management platform that manages and boosts local SEO efforts for agencies, enterprises and small businesses with multiple locations.

What is a Business Citation?

Citations simply refers to your business name and address mention on other webpages. An example is an online yellow pages directory, Google Maps, Apple Siri and so on.

What Does Synup do?

Synup provides you with a platform to manage your own listings or citations with ease. The platform syncs all your business information from across the web and puts it in one place where you can easily manage them.

You no longer have to manually update each online citation directory as Synup automatically takes care of this. The tool automatically adds your business to all the large local search directories.

Benefits of Using Synup Local Marketing Software

First of all, the platform provides you with instant submission to more than 45 local search directories as well as live listings. The central dashboard is designed to make it easy to edit and update your business details across directories.

The platform also has an automated claim wizard that allows you to easily claim your listings across directories and also allows you to easily monitor the progress of your business verification.

Synup also provides you with instant updates to all changes. This obviously removes the hassle of having to manually make changes to each directory every time you make a change in your business.

Moreover, there are times when you may find two different listings of your business on one website. Synup, however, solves this problem as it selects the most accurate listing so you can remove the ones that may be harming your business.

Other Synup benefits include:

  • 24/7 Customer Service and Support
  • Multi Location Management
  • Embeddable Widgets
Synup Pricing

The company’s pricing is pretty simple and straightforward. The service costs $30 per location per month. The price reduces as your volume increases.

Yext Vs. Synup

Synup and Yext offer pretty much the same service. However, with Yext there is the downside that all the citations the platforms syncs for you across the web disappear as soon as you unsubscribe from the service. Synup’s data, on the other hand, is permanent.

Another major difference is in the two companies’ pricing models. Yext bills its customers on an annual basis, with its cheapest plan being $199 per year while Synup charges, as stated earlier, by location with a decrease in cost as the number of your locations increases. So the choice may depend on the number of locations you have and the level of service you need.

Images: Synup

This article, "Synup Offers Alternative to Yext for Small Businesses with Multiple Listings Online" was first published on Small Business Trends

How and Why Your Business Should Recycle Computers

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 07:30

If your small business has any old computers lying around, you might be at a loss about how to dispose of them properly. Recycling tech isn’t always as easy as recycling things like paper and aluminum. But it’s just as important.

Computers, including desktops, monitors, laptops and other components, contain materials that can be extremely harmful to the environment. And there are plenty of potential benefits for businesses that choose to recycle. Here’s more on how and why your small business should recycle its computers.

Savings on New Purchases

There are a few different ways you can recycle computers. But one of the most attractive options for businesses is to trade in old devices with the manufacturer or a retail store when purchasing new ones.

In this case, you can potentially even save some money on your new computer purchases if the old computers are in decent shape. For example, Staples allows you to trade in old tech devices in stores or even send them in by mail. Apple, Dell, Best Buy and more also have similar programs.

The price you get back depends on the condition and type of each device. But in most cases, getting some money back is better than nothing, especially for businesses making expensive new tech purchases.

Access to Refurbished Goods

There are so many tech innovations and improvements making their way into computers on a regular basis. But a lot of the main components used in building those computers remain roughly the same.

So when you recycle computers, you provide raw materials that manufacturers can then use to make refurbished models or even new devices that just use some of those rough materials or recycled components. This can lead to some more affordable options on the market.

Reduced Harmful Waste

When you dispose of computers instead of recycling them, it can do a lot of harm to the environment. Electronic waste is generally dumped into landfills or incinerated. And since computers contain heavy metals like lead and carcinogens, those materials can be extremely detrimental to the air, land, waterways and the environment as a whole.

How to Recycle Computers

Aside from taking your computers to a retail trade-in program or sending them into a manufacturer, you have a few options for recycling computers. You can check with your local recycling center to make sure they accept devices like computers. You can also contact other local computer shops or refurbishing centers to see if they accept devices, even if you don’t plan on making new purchases.

Whichever route you decide to take, your computers can do a lot of good when you choose to recycle them. And the materials in them can do a lot of harm to the environment if you just throw them away. So taking the time to trade in or recycle your old computers and other tech devices can be a win-win for your business and the planet.

Old Laptops Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How and Why Your Business Should Recycle Computers" was first published on Small Business Trends

What the Presentation Lacked in Substance It Made Up for in Rhythm

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 06:30

Listen, cartooning is a great job. You get to write jokes and draw funny pictures for a living. If you’re a smarty pants who likes to doodle, it really doesn’t get better. But sometimes you draw something special. Something that makes even you LOL. And this cartoon is one of those. It’s not so much the joke (this is kind of a basic wording gag), and most of the drawing is relatively standard, but the guy on the right wiggling vigorously gets me every time. That right arm up in the air, the one eye closed, the hips in motion … It makes me giggle to myself every time. OK, maybe it’s a little like tooting my own horn, but I love this one.

This article, "What the Presentation Lacked in Substance It Made Up for in Rhythm" was first published on Small Business Trends

To Be or Not to Be: Pros and Cons of the Small Business LLC

Small Business Trends - Fri, 2017-03-24 05:00

The limited liability company was first offered as an option for structuring businesses 40 years ago in Wyoming. By the late 1990s, all states had laws authorizing the organizing of businesses under the hybrid structure. Today, LLCs are growing faster than any other business type, according to the IRS.

What is an LLC?

An LLC is a business structure that combines the simplicity, flexibility and tax advantages of a partnership with the liability protection of a corporation. An LLC can have one or many “members,” the official term for its owners. Members can be individuals or other businesses, and there is no limit to the number of members an LLC can have.

About 2.4 million U.S. businesses identified as LLCs in 2014, according to the latest figures available from the IRS. Take a look at these advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether an LLC is the right structure for your business.

Small Business LLC Pros and Cons LLC: The Pros

Choosing to structure your business as an LLC offers a number of advantages:

Limited Liability

Members aren’t personally liable for actions of the company. This means that the members’ personal assets — homes, cars, bank accounts, investments — are protected from creditors seeking to collect from the business. This protection remains in place so long as you run your business on the up-and-up and keep business and personal financials separate.

Pass-Through Federal Taxation On Profits

Unless it opts otherwise, an LLC is a pass-through entity, meaning its profits go directly to its members without being taxed by the government on the company level. Instead, they’re taxed on members’ federal income tax returns. This makes filing taxes easier than if your business were taxed on the corporate level. And if your business loses money, you and other members can shoulder the hit on your returns and lower your tax burdens.

Management Flexibility

An LLC can opt to be managed by its members, which allows all owners to share in the business’s day-to-day decision-making, or by managers, who can be either members or outsiders. This is helpful if members aren’t experienced in running a business and want to hire people who are. In many states, an LLC is member-managed by default unless explicitly stated otherwise in filings with the secretary of state or the equivalent agency.

Easy Startup and Upkeep

Initial paperwork and fees for an LLC are relatively light, though there is wide variation in what states charge in fees and taxes. For example, Arizona’s filing fee for articles of organization is $50, while the fee in Illinois is $500. These variations aside, the process is simple enough for owners to handle without special expertise, though it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer or an accountant for help. Ongoing requirements usually come on an annual basis.

LLC: The cons

Before registering your business as an LLC, consider these possible drawbacks:

Limited Liability has Limits

In a court proceeding, a judge can rule that your LLC structure doesn’t protect your personal assets. The action is called “piercing the corporate veil,” and you can be at risk for it if, for example, you don’t clearly separate business transactions from personal, or if you’ve been shown to have run the business fraudulently in ways that resulted in losses for others.

Self-Employment Tax

By default, the IRS considers LLCs the same as partnerships for tax purposes, unless members opt to be taxed as a corporation. If your LLC is taxed as a partnership, the government considers members who work for the business to be self-employed. This means those members are personally responsible for paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are collectively known as self-employment tax and based on the business’s total net earnings.

On the other hand, if your LLC files forms with the IRS to be taxed as an S corporation, you and other owners who work for the company pay Social Security and Medicare taxes only on actual compensation, not the whole of the company’s pretax profits.

Consequence of Member Turnover

In many states, if a member leaves the company, goes bankrupt or dies, the LLC must be dissolved and the remaining members are responsible for all remaining legal and financial obligations necessary to terminate the business. These members can still do business, of course; they’ll just have to start a whole new LLC from scratch.

How to Start Your LLC
  • Choose a name: Register a unique name in the state where you plan to do business. To make sure someone else doesn’t have your business name, do a thorough search of online directories, county clerks’ offices and the secretary of state’s website in your state — and any others in which you plan to do business. For a fee, many states let applicants reserve an LLC name for a set period of time before filing articles of organization.
  • Choose a registered agent: The registered agent is the person you designate to receive all official correspondence for the LLC. It’s crucial that you nail down who this person will be before filing articles of organization, because states generally require you to list a registered agent’s name and address on the form. Though people within the company are usually allowed to serve in this role, states maintain lists of third-party companies that perform registered-agent services.
  • File articles of organization: This is the step that essentially brings your LLC into existence. States request basic pieces of information about your business, which, if you’ve thought through your business plan and structure, should not be hard to provide. You’ll be asked to supply details like name, principal place of business and management type.
  • Get an employer identification number: The IRS requires any business that has employees or operates as a corporation or partnership to have an EIN, a nine-digit number assigned to businesses for tax purposes. The rule applies to LLCs because, as creations of state laws, they’re classified for federal tax purposes as either a corporation or a partnership.
  • Draw up an operating agreement: Your operating agreement should include specific information about your management structure, including an ownership breakdown, member voting rights, powers and duties of members and managers, and how profits and losses are distributed. Depending on the state, you can have either a written or oral agreement. Many states don’t require one, but they’re a useful thing to have.
  • Establish a business checking account: It’s generally good housekeeping to keep business and personal affairs separate. Having a separate checking account draws a bright line between the two. This is critical if you want to mitigate any potential risk to your personal assets if a lawsuit calls into question your business practices.

LLC Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "To Be or Not to Be: Pros and Cons of the Small Business LLC" was first published on Small Business Trends

What Amazon Can Teach You About Online to Offline Success

Small Business Trends - Thu, 2017-03-23 17:30

These days, it seems like just about every offline business is working on creating some kind of online presence. But the biggest name in ecommerce is now trying to do the exact opposite.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), the ecommerce giant that originally gained notoriety from selling books online, is now breaking into the brick-and-mortar bookstore business. It’s not exactly a booming industry — big names like Borders have had to close up shop in recent years. But Amazon has brought some unique elements into its retail store.

Located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the bookstore only features titles that have high customer ratings on Amazon.com. It also features a small selection of other products like electronics, magazines and gift cards.

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Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books, told Business Insider, “Our special sauce is knowing the reading habits and passions of a city through our Amazon.com data.”

Online to Offline (O2O) Targeting

So essentially, Amazon is using the data and intelligence it has gained from the online experience to make a more customized offline one. That’s something that other businesses looking to go from online to offline can learn from, whether you’re an online coach looking to get into in-person teaching or an online product seller looking to break into the retail game.

It doesn’t have to be a totally separate experience. You can still use what you’ve learned about customers, products and habits to create an offline experience that rivals that of the online one. And if you haven’t yet considered what an offline component might add to your business, it might just be time to reconsider.

Amazon Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What Amazon Can Teach You About Online to Offline Success" was first published on Small Business Trends

Developing Your Customer Profile – A Success Story

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 17:30

What does your perfect client look like? Male or female? What age? Does he or she have kids?

All these factors affect the decisions people make. If you fail to profile your customer, you fail to understand that individual’s decision-making process.

You cannot target your marketing at everyone because not everyone needs your product badly enough. Developing a customer profile lets you narrow your marketing, so it appeals to people who have an urgent need for your products.

Business users need the flexibility to accommodate changes in working practices, so SimpliSafe’s DIY modular security system is a good fit.

SimpliSafe – A Customer Profile Example

SimpliSafe sells a wireless security system. A home or small business alarm system is a substantial investment, but an essential one for companies. Every business or home owner could use it, but only a few homeowners consider it an important purchase.

The SimpliSafe Product Range

SimpliSafe sells a range of modular security system components. These include cameras, glass breakage sensors, movement sensors and door opening sensors. The sensors all connect wirelessly to a control unit, which is connected to a cellular phone network and dials out to the SimpliSafe monitoring center if a sensor is activated.

Customers can order system components separately to produce their own customized system, or they can order preconfigured systems such as the one below.

The SimpliSafe system can be used as a local alarm, with a siren. However, it is best used with a monthly monitoring contract, which will also allow customers to monitor cameras and sensors from a smartphone using a free Android or iOS app.

SimpliSafe’s Unique Features

SimpliSafe’s system is designed so customers can install it themselves without any drilling or screwing. This makes it perfect for anyone renting an apartment or room where tenants are forbidden from drilling walls and door frames.

The monitoring contract is a monthly renewable one, rather than the minimum 36-month contract other companies typically demand. This means you can change your address without losing money. You can also take the system with you and reinstall it at your new address because components are fixed with sticky pads instead of screws.

SimpliSafe’s Customer Profile

SimpliSafe’s typical customer regards a security system as essential, often as a result of property crime in the neighborhood. Most clients are male with slightly above average earnings, and they prefer to base buying decisions on their own research rather than being overly impressed by brand names. The typical customer has children who have left home.

Buyers of SimpliSafe’s system fall into two categories, switchers and new buyers. Switchers are changing from a competitor’s product. New buyers are new to the home security market.

SimpliSafe’s Market Positioning

SimpliSafe’s appeal lies in its simplicity and reliability, together with value for money and there being no need for a long-term monitoring contract.

The SimpliSafe low setup cost appeals to buyers who have multiple demands on their income. The monthly renewable monitoring contract removes perceived risk, as does the 100-night money-back guarantee.

System portability is very attractive to families with college-age offspring because it lets parents provide sons daughters with security that can move with them from college room to apartment.

SimpliSafe’s customers value the alerts to their cell phone and the flexibility of a system that can notify them of unauthorized access to gun safes and liquor cabinets.

Take Aways

One of the first points to hit you on SimpliSafe’s website is the company saying who their system is unsuitable for. When the company makes exclusions in this way, it creates trust because it seems to be turning away profitable business. Narrowing your target market makes your product more suitable for that market. It is better to be a perfect match for part of the market than a mediocre match for every buyer.

Third party reviews like this SimpliSafe review add credibility to any product, so get your product into the hands of review sites. The SimpliSafe Facebook page is valuable as well, in relaying trust and reliability to potential buyers.

You need to know you the right people are seeing your marketing materials. If you understand those who buy your products, you can target your marketing materials at them, which costs less than pay and spray marketing.

Profile Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Developing Your Customer Profile – A Success Story" was first published on Small Business Trends

Girl Scout Shares Ingredients for Making More Sales

Small Business Trends - Wed, 2017-03-22 15:30

Want to increase your business’s sales? You could probably learn a thing or two about perseverance in the sales process from a 15-year-old Girl Scout in Oklahoma.

Katie Francis has sold more than 100, 100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies since joining her current troupe seven years ago, making her the top seller in the whole country.

Business Sales Tips from the Top-Selling Girl Scout

And she has some tips for entrepreneurs and anyone who’s looking to sell more. According to Francis, the most important ingredients to making sales are time, commitment and asking everyone you see.

You can learn even more business sales tips from this top-selling Girl Scout in the video below.

From CNN:

“A lot of people will say no to cookies throughout the year,” says the pint-sized snack maven, but “you’ve got to keep on moving and keep on getting those yeses.”

Girl Scout cookies are pretty irresistible to a lot of buyers. But that doesn’t mean Francis is any stranger roadblocks in her sales efforts. The important part is that she keeps going and keeps asking more people to get to those who say yes.

And that’s a lesson that you can apply to your small business as well.

Girl Scouts Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Girl Scout Shares Ingredients for Making More Sales" was first published on Small Business Trends