Friday, May 31, 2019

Know Your Industry Before You Start Your Business

By Tim Berry
From Bplan
Picture from Pixabay

Industry analysis is part of good management. That’s not just for the business planning, but rather for business survival, beginning to end. Most of the people who successfully start their own business have already had relevant business experience before they start, most often as employees.

Although all business owners need to know their industry, the documented details and explanations are mainly for when you’re writing a business plan you need to show to outsiders, like bank lenders or investors. You’ll need to do some industry analysis so you’re able to explain the general state of your industry, its growth potential, and how your business model fits into the landscape.

And if your business plan is more of an internal strategic roadmap, you should still be very sure—whether you have to prove it to others or not—that you know your market, even if you don’t do a formal industry analysis. Whether you’re a service business, manufacturer, retailer, or something else, you want to know your industry inside and out.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Is It Time to Break up with Your Business Partner?

By Rae Steinbach
From Funding Circle:

People start new businesses with their friends or families for a variety of reasons, but this can lead to a unique set of problems that most conventional businesses don’t encounter. This approach makes it easy to share successes, but mixing your personal and business lives can get complicated very quickly.

If you’re concerned about your business—or more specifically, your business partners—it can be tough to know when to walk away. These are some of the biggest red flags to look out for if you’re worried about your ability to stay in business with people close to you.

Difficulty Maintaining Separate Roles

Businesses typically have very defined roles for each member of staff, making it easy to create a reliable chain of command and distribution of duties. When working with friends, on the other hand, it’s easy for these lines to become blurred over time if you don’t assign clear responsibilities in advance.

If one of your colleagues starts to overstep their boundaries, you should always talk to them openly and honestly before doing anything rash or irreversible. On the other hand, if there are differences between you that don’t seem resolvable, the best decision may be to simply walk away.

Your Family and Friends Think Something Is Wrong

It’s often easier for us to believe that everything is ok than it is to convince the people closest to us. Comments from your friends and family may be the first sign that your job is causing mental, physical, or financial stress in your life. Instead of brushing off their concerns, understand that they want what’s best for you.

A difficult stretch at work isn’t always enough of a reason to walk away entirely, but you may reconsider your position if this continues for a longer period of time. Try to be open about these issues with your family and friends and get their input if you’re thinking about making a change.

You’re Putting Too Much Money into the Company

What exactly is too much money obviously varies from person to person, but a constant need for new investment usually isn’t a good sign. This can be an especially messy situation in businesses between friends, as personal dynamics can play a major role.

If your company is spending money with no clear return on investment, try to right the ship and look for ways to budget more effectively. Without a clear plan of action and a realistic path to viability, you may not see a future with your current business.

Starting a company with friends or family can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be prepared for some of the most common challenges people face in this situation. If you’ve noticed any of these concerns in your own business, it may be time to reconsider your current operations and take a closer look at your company’s future.

Rae is a freelance editor at Funding Circle. She is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. Rae is passionate about "business law, international marketing, and writing (of course)." The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New York SBDC or Funding Circle.

Monday, May 27, 2019

9 Proven Online Businesses For 2019

By Jann Chambers
From UK Web Host Review

With so many different opportunities to choose from it is easy to suffer from “shiny object syndrome” and fleet from one idea to the next. I’m sure you have a ton of amazing business ideas. However, it is important to stick to one area and be consistent before expanding into other areas...

The main thing about your blog is being consistent in creating content. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to get organized (wink-wink) you can easily schedule both your blog posts and social media posts to advertise your articles. So if you’re like me and like to get everything done in one go – you can...

An eCommerce business is basically the same as starting any shop/ store, the only key difference is that people don’t normally visit your warehouse in person. When you ship the products you’ll need to ensure that this is handled professionally and the chosen company are competent and cost-effective. Additionally, the postage and packaging, tax and other costs must be considered when deciding on a price for your products.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Friday, May 24, 2019

In-Store Checkout Needs to Be Quick and Easy

Article by Lucy Koch

A simple and seamless checkout experience still tops shoppers’ list of in-store must-haves, because ain’t nobody got time ... to stand in long lines.

When location platform GroundTruth asked US consumers in June 2018 about what made in-store shopping better than digital, more pointed to a quick checkout experience than any other factor, at 81%.

But in-store shopping has its drawbacks—half of respondents to the GrouthTruth survey noted crowds and long lines as the biggest pain points. And these inconveniences can hinder consumers’ paths to purchase.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

WiFi Marketing Can Help Restaurants Boost Customer Loyalty

By Allen Graves
From Bplans

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, restaurants have the challenging and sometimes unenviable task of making their brand stand out from all the others. For newer businesses, it can be even more difficult due to a smaller budget and fewer loyal customers.

In comparison to online retailers, brick-and-mortar businesses are typically short on what has become the most important component of marketing today—actual customer data.

Customer data—the kind you get through market research—is essential to understanding who your customers really are, where their interests lie, and how they prefer to spend their money. It also helps businesses assess the feasibility of new products, services or menu items before putting them on the market.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Let's Not Kid Ourselves: The Real Reason for Employee Turnover

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson
From LinkedIn

I received a call last week from a CEO who was concerned about the sudden increase in employee turnover in his organization.

He couldn't understand why anyone would leave his firm. He then went down a laundry list of perks he recently added, that would have made even Google envious...

I see companies spending a ton of money trying to outdo one another in terms of perks and crazy office designs that few appreciate. Tales of kegs being opened at all hours of the day or exotic snacks that are making employees fat seem to be all the rage. Yet, here we are. Employees are less engaged today than back in the sixties when a steady job was the key to engagement.

You can access my employee turnover calculator for free. That's right. I won't see the results unless you decide to send them to me, nor will I hound you with follow up email automatically spewed out by some contact management system. All I'm asking here is for you to take an honest look at what it costs your company every time someone leaves your organization.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Here's Why Stores Still Matter in the Digital Age

Article by Caroline Cakebread
From eMarketer

With retail e-commerce sales growing rapidly in the US, it can feel like online buying is taking over the world. But for consumers, brick-and-mortar shopping is still important. They’ll spend almost 90% of their retail dollars in person this year, and a large portion of that foot traffic will come from webrooming.

Webrooming, or researching a product online before buying in a physical store, has helped boost in-store traffic for a few retailers in particular last year...

The Home Depot also saw increased in-store traffic last year, something CEO Craig Menear credited to BOPUS (buy online, pick up in-store). “These online shoppers see the relevance of our stores...” Like Ulta Beauty, the company plans to expand its footprint in 2019, something it hasn’t done in several years.

Image by Trang Le from Pixabay

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Find Out if Your Password Has Been Stolen

By Eric Ravenscraft
From PC magazine

Data breaches are a regular occurrence these days, but have hackers been digging around in your personal information?

These tools will help you figure out if your online accounts have been hacked, and your email addresses and passwords stolen.

Large data breaches happen with uncomfortable frequency. It has never been more necessary to secure your online accounts with a password manager and two-factor authentication, where available.

But what if a service you use is hacked? The following tools can help you determine if your accounts were caught up in a breach.

Monday, May 13, 2019

How to Build Business Credit on a Shoestring Budget

By Marco Carbajo
From the US Small Business Administration

Many businesses start on a shoestring budget so it can be challenging to build the business credit you need to expand your business. But every business has to start somewhere and building your business credit can be done with the right action plan to guide you.

In this article we’ll cover how to build business credit without cash flow coming into your business.

The first place to start is with your existing operating expenses. Did you know the payments you already make on a monthly basis for expenses such as your business phone line, internet and utility accounts, can be reported to a business credit reporting agency? Unfortunately, many of these service providers do not report your company’s monthly payments to the business credit reporting agencies, so you don’t get the benefit of paying these bills on time. s

The good news is there are data reporting services that allow small business owners to link their eligible accounts and have the payment history automatically report to a business credit reporting agency. This allows you to have this information reported to one or more of the business credit agencies which will build and improve your business credit reports.

As you know an established business credit report and score may lead to better rates and terms for business credit cards, lines of credit or loans from banks, card issuers and lenders.

By starting with your operating expenses, you can start establishing business credit history for payments you’re already making every month but never get credit for. It’s alarming how many small business owners don’t realize that utility accounts and other operational expenses such as these never get reported.

It’s important to note that this can only be accomplished if the business phone line, internet and utility accounts are set up in the company’s name. This is obviously an essential part of establishing a separation between you and your business. As you know, keeping all aspects of how you structure and operate your business completely separate also helps you manage your taxes more efficiently.

Failing to separate your personal and business accounts leads to an accounting nightmare during tax time. To protect your personal assets, it’s critical to separate your personal accounts, funds, expenses, and debt from those of your business, or you may surrender the legal protection that an entity structure offers.

Here are several operating expenses that can help build business credit:

Business phone line – There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to setting up an ideal phone system for a business. Whether a mobile phone, VoIP or other type of phone service, be sure to establish the account in your company name.

Printing & Copying – Do you use print & copy services on a regular basis? Did you know you can set up a corporate account with a printing service provider? Many office supply companies offer net 30 accounts which can be a useful trade reference on future business credit applications.

Web hosting – Paying for web design, webhosting, domain names, and other services related to your company’s online presence should be purchased in the company’s name. Web hosting is an ongoing expense that can be used as a valuable trade reference.

Marketing & Advertising
– Promoting a company’s products and/or services via advertising is a sizable expense that is incurred by every business. Many advertising companies offer special financing terms for major promotions and monthly billing options.

Building business credit with low cash flow doesn’t have to be a difficult process if you take advantage of your existing expenses and ensure the business gets credit for it. It’s simply a matter of taking action, setting up accounts in the company’s name, and linking those accounts with a data reporting service.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Friday, May 10, 2019

What Is a Franchise?

By Joel Libava
From Bplans

A franchise is a type of business that is owned and operated by an individual (franchisee) but that is branded and overseen by a much larger—usually national or multinational—company (the franchisor). Many of the stores and restaurants that you see every day are franchises: Subway, 7-11, The UPS Store, Ace Hardware, Pizza Hut, Hilton Hotels, Molly Maid, and thousands more.

When you buy the rights to open this type of business, you’re buying the rights to use a proven business model and system, with proven prices, products, and marketing techniques. You’re also buying the rights to a brand: You get full access to the company’s trademarked materials including logos, slogans, and signage—anything that has to do with the brand...

In addition, you may be given an exclusive geographical territory to cover. Information about territory is always spelled out in your franchise agreement, as is the time period for which you own your franchise business. Typically, this sort of contract lasts between 5 to 10 years in length and you usually have the right to renew them.

From the FTC: A Consumer's Guide to Buying a Franchise

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Essential Ingredients for an Effective Onboarding Program

From Gallup

Unfortunately, a common, fatal flaw organizations tend to make is to treat onboarding as a "new employee orientation class" or "the first 30 days," rather than a year-long process that helps employees get up to speed in their job and integrated into their new team and organization.

In our experience, it takes 12+ months for most people to get "up to speed" in most jobs. This ramp-up time is when employees learn their role and with the intention of being fully capable of performing all critical functions at a high level...

Often, organizations lose one-third to two-thirds of new hires within their first 12 months on the job. Naturally, this varies by role, as about half of all hires for senior positions leave within 18 months, and half of all hourly workers last just four months.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Do People Actually Want Personalized Ads?

Article by Ross Benes
From eMarketer
The belief that consumers crave more targeted, personalized ads has become a digital advertising mantra. But it’s not entirely true...

Adlucent found that seven in 10 consumers yearn for personalized ads. IAB presentations state that consumers want fewer, but more personalized ads. Epsilon found that four-fifths of consumers are more likely to make purchases when a brand gives them a personalized experience. In a Segment survey, 71% of consumers were frustrated that their shopping experiences were too impersonal. The consumer demand for personalized content is at an all-time high, according to Adobe.

But when consumers are asked about the data collection practices that empower personalized ads, they tell a different story.

Friday, May 03, 2019

5 Myths About Payroll Taxes

By Barbara Weltman
From the Small Business Administration
If you want to grow your business, you probably need to hire employees to help you. Becoming an employer and expanding your staff entails many responsibilities, one of which is seeing to payroll taxes. Unfortunately, there are many myths about these taxes. Here is the reality:

1. Myth: Transforming employees into independent contractors to save on payroll taxes is easy

Reality: You probably know that it costs less to use an independent contractor than to have an employee on staff. The reason: the cost of payroll taxes, along with insurance and benefits apply only for employees. But don’t think you can simply reclassify a worker who’s been your employee as an independent contractor. The IRS, as well as other government agencies, are on the lookout for just such action.

The classification of a worker depends on many factors, most of which boil down to a matter of control. Essentially, if you have the right to say when, where, and how work gets done, you’re likely dealing with an employee. The IRS uses three categories of factors to assess the degree of control: behavioral, financial, and type of relationship. Many states, including California, use an ABC test:

The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with performing the work
The worker performs work outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
The worker is usually engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity

2. Myth: All tax-free benefits are exempt from payroll taxes

Reality: Receiving tax-free fringe benefits means that employees do not have to pay income tax on what they receive. However, it does not mean that employers are off the hook for payroll taxes. For example, 401(k) contributions made by employees through salary reductions are still subject to FICA. And adoption assistance is exempt from income tax withholding because the benefit is tax free to employees but is still subject to FICA and FUTA taxes. You can find a list of various fringe benefits and their tax treatment for employment tax purposes in Table 2-1 in IRS Publication 15B.

3. Myth: You can pay employment taxes with your quarterly employer tax return

Reality: In general, you must deposit federal income taxes withheld and both the employer and employee share of FICA with the U.S. Treasury using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Also, deposits are required for FUTA tax for the quarter within which the tax due is more than $500.

4. Myth: Outsourcing to a payroll service provider relieves you of liability

Reality: Rather than handling payroll in-house, many businesses use an outside payroll service provider to handle the chore of computing payroll taxes, withholding them from employees’ paychecks, remitting payroll taxes to the government, and filing employment tax returns. What happens if a payroll provider fails to remit your money to the government? Or it fails to timely file employment tax returns? Unfortunately, you’re still on the hook for these obligations. You may have a lawsuit against the payroll service provider for theft, breach of contract, or other bad action. You can even file a complaint with the IRS on Form 14157Download Adobe Reader to read this link content if you suspect your payroll service provider of improper or fraudulent activities regarding the deposit of your taxes or the filing of your returns. But it doesn’t relieve you of your obligations to the government.

5. Myth: Incorporating relieves you of liability for unpaid employment taxes

Reality: You may think that having incorporated your business or formed a limited liability company (LLC), you have complete personal liability protection. You don’t. If you are a person responsible for withholding, accounting for, or depositing withheld employee taxes (their income tax withholding and their share of FICA) and you willfully fail to do so, you can be held personally liable for all of these taxes, plus interest. This is called a trust fund recovery penalty and it can be applied to business owners even if they have corporations or LLCs.

Final thought

In addition to any federal level payroll tax obligations, you may also have state-level employment taxes to consider. Find out more about federal employment taxes from the IRS. Check with your state tax or revenue department to learn about your obligations on the state and local levels.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion

From Gallup

Here's how it breaks down for an individual organization:
*The annual overall turnover rate in the U.S. in 2017 was 26.3%, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary -- and that's a conservative estimate.
*So, a 100-person organization that provides an average salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year.

Fifty-two percent of voluntarily exiting employees say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.

You may assume their manager did everything they could to make things right, but statistically, that's probably not the case. Over half of exiting employees (51%) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader spoke with them about their job satisfaction or future with the organization.