Showing posts from November, 2015

Prevent Spreadsheets from Strangling Your Startup

Entrepreneurs are the lifeline of any economy, and high-growth start-ups in particular are responsible for the great majority of new job creation. It’s worrying, then, that according to several reports the number of new businesses being created in the U.S. has been stalled since the end of the recession. As a mentor to many start-up entrepreneurs, I find this slow-down concerning, and I see one reason that’s rarely spoken about and needs a closer look: what I call spreadsheet asphyxiation. I repeatedly hear from young entrepreneurs that, as fund managers come in, they introduce too many controls for cash flows, income projections, budgeting, risk analysis, financial modeling – the list is endless. Start-ups can’t be assessed using conventional business metrics. Yes, they require diligent oversight. But in my experience, this can be achieved without an excessive emphasis on controls if a start-up entrepreneur has clarity at all times on four simple questions. First, what specific pro

6 Characteristics Of Entrepreneurs All People Could Benefit From

1. We do everything by ourselves. As an entrepreneur, time management needs to be a huge part of your life. "When scheduling in meetings, you must decide who and what companies are aligned with your business or organization, have your best interest, market your brand and believe in your mission and vision.” — Tayrin Tapia of Dear Tayrin The best part about being an entrepreneur is you don’t have a boss. However, the worst part about being an entrepreneur is you don’t have a boss. This means you have to manage your time by creating your own schedule. You have to accomplish goals by setting them yourself. You have to build a brand by handling customer service, marketing and PR on your own (at least until you build a company big enough to hire employees). 2. We think about solving problems all the time. “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than trying to solve them.” — Henry Ford Entrepreneurs possess a “figure it out” mentally. We’re strategists

I worked in a video store for 25 years. Here’s what I learned as my industry died.

1) Video stores are about investment The enemy of video stores was convenience. The victim of convenience is conscious choice. Why streaming will never live up to home video We watch Netflix like we used to watch television on a slow Sunday night, everything blending together as we flip aimlessly through the channels. At first the choice is overwhelming: all of these options and nothing but the questionable "You Might Like" cue to guide us — we stare at the screen like idiots, paralyzed. But then when we make a choice, if we make a choice, it feels unimportant. Another option is only a click away. If you're actually in a video store, the stakes are different. You're engaged. You're on a mission to find a movie — the right movie. You had to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to a store. You had to think about what you want, why this movie looks good and not that one, perhaps even seeking guidance or advice. Whether it's from nostalgia, advertising, packagi

FTC Obtains Contempt Ruling Against ‘Yellow Pages’ Scam

At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a  federal court has banned Robert Ray Law and his company, CPU Service Incorporated (CPU)  from sending unsolicited direct mail to advertise or promote goods or services, imposed a judgment of almost $400,000, and required them to immediately pay $45,000. In July 2014, the FTC charged Law and Your Yellow Book Inc. (YYB)  with using bogus invoices to trick small businesses, doctors’ offices, retirement homes, and religious schools into paying for unordered online business directory listings.  In December 2014, a final order banned them from the directory business  and prohibited them from misrepresenting that consumers owe money for a good or service. According to FTC, Law created CPU to run a virtually identical scam, faxing fake invoices to nearly 150,000 small businesses across the country seeking payment for online computer support and consulting. As a result, in August 2015, the FTC asked the court to hold Law and CPU in contempt

Small businesses hurt by Hurricane Sandy to get help in new bill

New bill approved by Congress Monday could make it easier for small businesses hurt by Hurricane Sandy to apply for federal assistance. Authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the bill allows many small firms in New York and throughout the country to seek emergency loans from the Small Business Association. Given the SBA’s slow response following Sandy in 2012, the assistance is long overdue, Velázquez said. “The fact is the SBA was caught flatfooted when Sandy came ashore and small businesses seeking relief suffered because of the agency's slow response," Velázquez said. "This new law will mean entrepreneurs in New York and up and down the East Coast will get another chance to apply and be made whole through the SBA's loan process." According to a study done by Velázquez’s office, Sandy businessowners waited on average 46 days for SBA applications to be processed — three times as long as it took SBA to process applications for prior storms. Velázquez’s

How to Solve Problems in Your Business

Solving problems is a central issue in business ownership. In fact, you might say that business itself is a series of problems waiting to be solved. But, when it comes to finding the ideal approach, or the perfect process for solving any of the dozens of problems faced by the modern business, things get complicated.There are three methods for problem solving that have proven track records in the world of commerce. These are big ideas that have inspired countless companies both large and small. Read more at: Bplans

Small Business Saturday, November 28: Muppet ads

The Muppets have a series of American Express ads in support of Small Business Saturday, November 28 . If you have to shop this coming weekend, support small businesses!

How Your Reptile Brain Responds to Marketing

As the co-founder of SalesBrain, a neuromarketing agency, Patrick Renvoise has spent years helping global companies like Boeing, BMW and even NASA sell more and do more, by understanding the science of attention. We caught up with him in advance of his keynote at eMarketer Attention! 2015. eMarketer: What's one of the most fascinating things you’ve learned about the human brain and how we pay attention? Patrick Renvoise: That it’s all about the reptilian brain! Many years ago I read in a neuroscience book that the reptilian brain was the center of attention and that it played a key role in our perception and ultimate decisions. It then took me several years to understand the implications for sales and marketing, but one day I had a big “aha” moment. Since we all know that we need to sell to the decision-maker then we should be able to relate every sales and marketing activities to our reptilian brain. Raed more at: businessusa

Business Startup Checklist

What's in the Business Startup Checklist? Every one of the tasks in our business startup checklist belongs to one of the following overarching objectives: Free Business Startup ChecklistFind a good business idea Test your business idea and do market research Write a formal business plan (if you're seeking funding) Brand your business Make it legal Get funded (only if you need it) Set up shop Market and launch your business See? That's a list you can complete. Don't forget: we're here to help! Ask us questions, or check out more of our member downloads for other great, free resources. Read more at: Bplans

New Farmers Grant Fund: 2015 Request for Applications

Program Purpose New York State has allocated $1 million in the 2015-2016 state budget for the second round of the New York State New Farmers Grant Fund. Its purpose is to provide grants to support beginning farmers who have chosen farming as a career and who materially and substantially participate in the production of an agricultural product on their farm. These grants will help farmers improve profitability resulting in the growth of agribusiness and the concomitant tax revenues within the state. Program Highlights The New York State New Farmers Grant Fund will help farmers improve farm profitability through one or more of the following goals: Expanding agricultural production, diversifying agricultural production and/or extending the agricultural season; Advancing innovative agricultural techniques that increase sustainable practices such as organic farming, food safety, reduction of farm waste and/or water use; Creating or expanding partnerships with other entities su

Inside Start-Up NY: Are tax breaks a valuable tool or an expensive waste of money?

Syracuse, N.Y. — The companies approved for the Start-Up NY tax break program in Central New York are working on an impressive array of technological innovations. The firms are tinkering with DNA testing on brewing yeast, wood products that could replace iron and steel in skyscraper construction and new ways to detect sports concussions. But three of the five companies were well under way in the region long before Start-Up NY came along, even though Gov. Andrew Cuomo pitched the program as a way to help draw new businesses to the state. That's allowed. Existing companies can participate if they're expanding. Read more at: StartUpNY

How Should You Handle Unhappy Customers?

The old adage says “you can’t please everyone.” However, when it comes to customer complaints, this is often one time you should try to set things right. Not only that, but a customer complaint can be an excellent way to make your product or service better next time. While the truth is that the customer may not always be right, a customer issue is almost always a chance to improve your business. What can you learn from an unhappy customer, and how should you handle the situation? What can you do when a customer complains about your product or service? Assess the “weight” of the complaint From the very beginning, try to weigh the severity of the issue. While it is important to listen to all customer complaints, acknowledge that some customers will never truly be satisfied. Bplans

Fire Prevention for Small Businesses

Fire can have a devastating impact on small businesses and home-based-businesses. A fire can race through a structure/business in a matter of minutes, giving the employer and employees little time to escape. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data for Texas for 2008,there were 23 work-related fatalities and 60 nonfatal cases requiring days away from work reported as a result of fires or explosions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.39 requires an employer with 10 or more employees to have a fire prevention plan. A fire prevention plan must be: • in writing; • kept in the workplace; and • available for employees to review. Read more at: Tditexas

Prepare Your Office for Holiday Closures

Agility Recovery, a business disaster recovery firm, offers some good suggestions on preparing your small business to close during the holidays (or any time, really.)  They include notifying clients and staff of all closures, changing out of office messages, making a list of all equipment that needs to be turned off, and reviewing deadlines.  Read the whole post here .

10 Stories of Unforgettable Customer Service

Why are we as consumers so captivated by stories of great customer service? Perhaps it is because they serve as a much needed reminder that there are companies (and amazing support reps) who still care about their customers. Every company says that their customers are their #1 priority, but stories show us that many businesses are ready, willing, and able to go the extra mile for each and every one of their customers. As Benjamin Franklin would put it: “Well done is better than well said.” Read more at: Entrepreneur

Can You Create a Great App Without a Tech Background? One Entrepreneurial Mom Shows You How It’s Done

There’s something gutsy about starting an app or creating a product to solve a problem you wish could be solved for you personally. Not only are you seeking out a solution to your problem, you are inventing the solution itself. With the creation of the MomCo app, Jillian Darlington did just that. MomCo brings mothers together for playdates and friendship, connects them with local businesses, gives them access to forums, and keeps them in the loop on local events. Learn more at: Bplans

Spot Pyramid Schemes Before You Sign Up

If you’ve ever been told that you could make easy money and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Pyramid schemes often sound like enticing business deals, but fraudsters may use this “business model” - to take advantage of you. Before you invest your time and money, it’s important to ask good questions and do some research on the company. Here are some typical characteristics of a pyramid scheme: Emphasis on recruiting No genuine product or service is sold Promises of high returns in a short period of time Easy money or “passive income” (money you earn without doing anything) No demonstrated revenue from retail sales Find more information on identifying pyramid schemes and how to protect yourself at: investor

A Technical Guide Won't Teach You What We Learned Starting a Radio Station

Like most other community radio stations, Radio Boise is a not-for-profit organization. While there is a small paid staff of seven people who help run the station—both part time and full time—the deejays are all volunteers. There’s also a small group of steadfast individuals, including community members, who help keep the station up and running. In 2003, when Radio Boise was in its infancy and only just banding together as a team of like-minded individuals, it was known as the Boise Community Radio Project. It wasn’t until 2011 that the station actually went live on the FM airwaves. 1. Volunteer organization is challenging It’s kind of like herding cats. That is, you have to accept contributions in bite-size proportions. Continuity is often obtained via chains of volunteers, as opposed to leaning heavily on individuals, for example. That being said, the leadership team that makes up any organization is extremely important, and Radio Boise is no different. Here are a few import

Network and Learn

Interested in networking and learning from others? Tuesday is CX Day, a day full of live and online events devoted to learning from customer service innovators and sharing strategies. So whether you need help justifying the importance of customer service training or just need to sharpen your company's customer service skills, there's something for you. View a full list of live and online CX Day events at: cxday

7 Reasons You Need to Be Using Social Media As Your Customer Service Portal

When most marketers and business owners think about the advantages of social media for their business, they think about attracting new customers to the business. Smart business owners and marketers focus on relationship building, either through regular content marketing or by having conversations with customers who are already familiar with the brand. Straightforward and effective, this type of strategy has helped thousands of businesses spark new life into their marketing campaigns—but I believe social media has a much broader potential for business development and customer retention. Customer service is evolving to match the rapid growth and development of new communication media, and today’s most popular social media platforms are the perfect opportunity to capitalize on that trend. When today’s customers try to get in touch with a customer service representative, they encounter various challenges: *Find and call a phone number. Unless the number is immediate, just finding the nu

New York Veteran Entrepreneurs Honored During National Veterans Small Business Week Nov. 2-6

Thom Besch President of Veteran Solar Systems A native of Rensselaer County, Thom Besch came home to the Capital Region after a 26-year career serving in the U.S. Army. After retiring as a Colonel, Thom apprenticed in a local solar business for four years before launching his own startup solar firm, Veteran Solar Systems, in February of 2014. Thom’s company employs up to five employees and serves mainly residential customers in a one-hour radius of Albany. Resources like the SBA’s Boots to Business training program, SBA’s Veteran Business Outreach Center (VBOC) Director Amy Amoroso in Albany, and incubator space at the Watervliet Arsenal have contributed to Veteran Solar’s continued success. “I came back because this is where my family lives. In trying to decide what I wanted to do next, I thought about defense contracting and changing uniforms for a coat and tie. I believed in the missions and units I was a part of, and I wanted to do something af

Health Insurance for Small Businesses

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act health insurance for small businesses begins again on November 1st. Read more about the requirements at: Healthcare If you currently provide health insurance to your employees, make sure you are up-to-date on the changes to the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. sba

How to Choose a Business Location

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business for a while, chances are you’ve got an idea of what your business location is going to look like. That’s great, but it’s not enough. Choosing the right location is about so much more than finding the place that looks closest to the one you’ve envisioned. It’s about being somewhere your customers will see you, about being in a competitive location, about staying within budget, and about meeting local and state regulations and laws. Read more at: Bplans

Top Markets Series: A Market Assessment Tool for U.S. Exporters

The International Trade Administration's Top Markets Series is meant to help exporters determine their next export market by comparing opportunities across borders. Each report ranks future export opportunities within a particular industry based on a sector-specific methodology. The reports provide a detailed assessment of the competitiveness landscape within a sector, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing U.S. exporters in key markets. Each report is available for download. Interested exporters can also download or view individual case studies within larger reports. ITA’s Top Markets Reports are developed by its Industry & Analysis business unit, whose staff of industry, trade, and economic experts provide detailed analysis to strengthen the export competitiveness of U.S. industry and support strategies to unlock export and investment opportunities that benefit the U.S. economy. Read more at: Businessusa

11 Grants for Women-Owned Businesses You Need to Know About

In 2014, there were close to 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, a 68 percent increase since 1997, according to The 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report from American Express. This percentage increase exceeded the national average of small business growth by 1.5 times. It also illustrated what we already know: Women entrepreneurs are having a tremendous impact on the small business landscape nationwide. Yet to continue to be competitive and grow, these entrepreneurs have to find funding for their ventures. And, alarmingly, women entrepreneurs are increasingly being turned away by banks for small business loans. Thankfully, they still have other options, given the rise of technology-driven financial lending sources -- such as online loans, peer-to-peer loans and crowdfunding. Then there are government grants. While not widely known or used, these grants are another great option for women seeking extra funding for their business ventures. They just take a l