Tag Archive: steve_strauss

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

With Veterans Day around the corner, I am reminded of one of the questions I got the most during the past decade writing my USA TODAY column: why aren’t more small business owners hiring veterans?

It was a very legitimate question. The fact is, since 9/11, American veterans have come home to a very icy employment picture. For much of that time, veteran unemployment figures typically were several percentage points higher than the national average. For instance, in 2011, the number of veterans out of work stood at 12.1%. In 2012, it fell to 9.9%, but even that was several points higher than the national average. Happily, veteran unemployment continues to fall. Today it hovers around 7%.

Veteran Entrepreneurs Small Business Resources.

 

So yes, the good news is that employers seem to be warming up to the idea of hiring vets. The only real question is why did it take so long? Veterans generally make very good employees, especially because of their training and background.

 

And, if you think about it, that same training also means that veterans tend to be excellent entrepreneurs and small business owners:

 

  • Veterans understand how to create a plan, implement and execute it
  • Many are trained to be leaders
  • They understand systems
  • Hard work and commitment are in their bonesYet veterans face the same challenges that all small business owners face, as well as some unique to the veteran experience. Like all small businesses, finding the training and assistance needed to succeed can be tough. Beyond that, veteran entrepreneurs who are disabled or have other trauma-related issues have their own, unique set of issues to deal with.

     

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    So for all of the men and women who were brave enough to both serve our country, as well as who want to start a business (or have), here is a list of resources to make your entrepreneurial life easier:

     

Small Business School in 3 Steps

Small Business School in 3 Steps

Small Business School in 3 Steps. Small Business School in 3 Steps My daughter is finishing high school soon, and like all seniors, her head is everywhere but the school she currently attends. Senioritis is in full bloom throughout the land, and graduation is soon to arrive.

 

It took a long time and a lot of work for her to get to this place, and I am reminded that there have really been two sets of requirements that she has faced the past four years: first, the minimum requirements needed for graduating, and second, the requirements needed to get into a university. Small Business School in 3 Steps

 

In that regard, she is not very different from many small business owners. New small business owners and new students have a few things in common. It takes both of them some time to find their footing and become independent. To take the analogy a little further, for the entrepreneur there are also basic graduation requirements as well as advanced study requirements.

 

Any small business owner who wants to graduate from novice to pro needs to take and pass the following “courses:” Small Business School in 3 Steps

 

1. Profitability basics: This may seem obvious, but in reality it’s not. People start businesses with all sorts of dreams and aspirations, but it is safe to say that concrete, realistic profitability plans are not always part of the equation.

 

Maybe these folks want to create a great product, or maybe they want to pursue their passion every day. Whatever the case, it can be a rude awakening that the entrepreneur not only has to come up with a great idea, find a location, get funding, name the business and get started, but he or she also has to begin making a profit, pronto. Small Business School in 3 Steps

 

 

Profitability entails:

  • Learning how to price one’s services appropriately,
  • Sourcing products at a good price,
  • Selling, and
  • Upselling

 

2. Math for non-majors: There is a lot of math to master when you are a small business owner. You have to get a handle on taxes, spreadsheets, budgeting, inventory, buying and selling, profit and loss statements and other basic accounting skills.

 

3. Marketing 101: As I have said before, the only way new clients find you is via your consistent marketing efforts. As a result, the only way you will be around for the long haul is if you have a basic understanding of how to get your name out there and get people to remember it. Marketing is an extremely important element to master.

 

What if simply graduating from small business school is insufficient and you have higher aspirations? Then you will also need to pass the following “upper division-level courses:”

 

1. Labor law: Many small business are content to be one-person shops — indeed, most small businesses in this country are solo endeavors. But if you desire to keep growing, you will need to hire people at some point, either employees or other independent contractors. So, in this “course” you will need to master:

 

  • Interview techniques,
  • Hiring, and
  • Firing

 

Pull Quote May 7.png2. Advanced advertising: Doing the same old thing when it comes to your advertising strategy is fine, but it will get you the same old results. If you want to stand out to customers, you will need to show your advanced advertising competence. This “course” is always evolving, but currently the curriculum involves the following: Web 2.0, social media and mobile marketing. Small Business School in 3 Steps

 

3. Philosophy 200: In this advanced entrepreneurship course, you will be asked to articulate a vision for your business. Your vision must be based upon your core competencies, your company culture, your business values, the essential products and services you offer and your dream for the future of your company. You will also be asked to engage vendors, employees, customers, investors and the public at large in this vision. Small Business School in 3 Steps

 

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer

Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer. One summer, I interned at a law firm in San Francisco. I wanted to impress the partners so that they would offer me a job after I graduated the following year. This was back in the day when law firms really wined-and-dined their potential associates.

 

Man, I loved that summer.

 

The partners took us river rafting, invited us to fancy dinners and drinks at their homes, and yes, they even took us in a hot-air balloon. Oh yeah, we also did a little work too. Needless to say, I really wanted to work at that firm. Well, I got my chance a year later, and let’s just say that the real world was a tad different than my summer of fun. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

It turns out that many businesses are learning that one of the smartest things they can do, especially at this time of year, is to take advantage of the natural rhythms of the season and give employees their own summer fun. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

In fact, if you take a close look at the latest edition of the spring 2013 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), it turns out that many employers are taking this idea of creating a strong culture seriously. The Report found that almost nine in 10 small business owners offer some type of benefits to their employees.

If you want to engage your employees this summer, here are a few tips mentioned in the SBOR that will make your employees feel more engaged:

 

1. Offer flexible work hours: Forty-five percent of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the SBOR said that they reward their staff with flexible hours and/or they let them work from home. While this used to be an exotic idea, it is much more commonplace today. Between the cloud, smart phones, apps and laptops, anyone can work anywhere at any time. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

So let them.

 

Especially during the summer, it makes sense to give employees some flexibility and some time to enjoy the nice weather.  By allowing your employees to get work done at a time more convenient for them, they will reward you with their loyalty and hard work.

 

2. Share amenities like free lunch, massages, etc. When you visit a large, successful Internet company like Google or Facebook, one thing that is very noticeable is the amount of free (or subsidized) food available. No, it’s not cheap, but it is a benefit that keeps people at the office and not taking two-hour lunches.

 

For small businesses, one alternative might be to provide free, healthy snacks like fruit and water, which are affordable and appreciated.

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3. Lead team building events:  According to the SBOR, only about 25 percent of the small business owners surveyed used this tactic, and I think that is a mistake. In the summertime, when everyone is thinking about a lot more than just work, a fun event together away from the office is often just what the doctor ordered. Whether it is going out to dinner, a game, or a concert together, a team-building event is the best way to grow as a team and build a strong culture.

 

4. Allow social media at work: This is a tricky one. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they use this tactic to reward employees. However, as we all know, social media can easily gobble up a whole lot more time than one anticipates and potentially decrease productivity in the office. I recommend offering this perk to employees as it is a great way to take a short mental break from work, but certainly speak up if you feel the privilege is being abused.

 

5. Give unexpected freebies: Give employees some free time off. Have a spontaneous contest and give the winner a pair of seats to a game. Buy gift cards from Starbucks and hand them out. Give everyone an unannounced afternoon off.

 

This is the time of year when people like to take advantage of the outdoors. Let them and you and your business will both be rewarded. Ways to Engage Your Employees This Summer.

 

7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season. While nothing is certain in business, one thing is almost assured: The summer will bring change. For some small businesses, summer is their busy season; for others, it marks the slower time of year. But whatever the case, almost every business should look at summer as a special time of year and plan accordingly.

 

Here then are seven tips to help you, regardless of the nature of your business:

1. Hire smart: We have all been there – the day when the restaurant fails to plan accordingly, and everything takes too long. It is a missed opportunity for the restaurant: dazzle the customers with great service and tasty food, and they will be impressed and come back time and again. But miss the mark, and customers are unlikely to return. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

Multiply that several-fold, and that is the case when you run a business that gets busier over the summer but isn’t adequately staffed to account for the extra demand. Big mistake. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

If your business picks up in the summer, now is the time to jump on the hiring process or hire those summer interns. These two sources of help – seasonal workers and interns – are key to making your summer both profitable and enjoyable.

 

2. Take a break: Just as your customers are coming and going, so too should you and your staff. In another article I wrote recently, I shared some creative ways to handle vacation policies and time off. The important thing is that you plan ahead so that everyone leaves the summer season feeling rejuvenated, not exhausted. And the only way to do that is to get everyone on your team some much needed time off. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

3. Take advantage of summer events: The plethora of outdoor festivals, fairs and other similar events is a huge opportunity for many small businesses. If you have a business that lends itself to selling at these sorts of festivals, this may be a new profit center that you never considered. But even if your business is not the type that can sell at the artisan food and crafts fair, for example, your business can still take advantage of the good feelings that come from being associated with such an event by advertising or sponsoring part of the program. In addition, you can use these celebrations as an excuse to close shop early for the day and go have some fun with your employees. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

4. Partner up: There is likely an association – formal or informal – of businesses similar to yours in your region. It would behoove you to see if they are promoting your industry or city this summer and then hop on the bandwagon. Chambers of commerce do this, and getting your chamber to recommend your business can be a huge boon. Similarly, there may be a local tourism board, restaurant association or concierge group that you can tap into as well. Getting on their list is a smart way to get referral business. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

5. Check in: Summer is a great excuse to get in touch with old customers and let them know what is new right now. Maybe you have made some upgrades to the business this year, or maybe you are planning some summer sales. Whatever the case, updating your existing customers is a good way to get on their radar again. 7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

 

The next two tips are for those businesses where summer is not their busy time of year.

 

6. Take on a new project: If you have time to spare right now, then use it wisely:

 

  • Update your website
  • Clean out the stockroom
  • Paint or freshen up your business in other ways
  • Prepare a new advertising campaign
  • Organize the office
  • Launch an e-newsletter

 Should You Embrace March Madness in the Small Business Office? 7. Learn something new: As a small business owner, there is never a shortage of new things to learn, whether it is mobile marketing, social media, accounting, etc. If summer is a slow time for your business, use this time is to learn something new that can help you when business picks up again in the fall.  7 Tips for Kicking Off the Summer Season

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Posted by Steve Strauss in Advertising, Sales and Marketingon Nov 20, 2012 9:04:36 AM

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngI saw a statistic recently that was pretty interesting: According to CNN, last year, despite all the bad news about the economy, Black Friday set a record with over $50 billion being spent with sales up 16% over the previous year. So that’s good news for small businesses this year, right?

 

  1. Wrong.

 

Here’s why: I recently saw some other statistics that are even more interesting, and for our purposes, far more relevant. According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (click to download PDF),

 

  • The vast majority of small businesses see little to no benefit from Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact 91% of small business owners surveyed said that the two post-Thanksgiving shopping days had minor (or no) impact on their business.
  • As such, and not surprisingly, 81% said that they thought that Cyber Monday was overhyped.

 

At first blush, I was surprised at the results of the survey, but after thinking about it more it made sense. All of those post-Thanksgiving sales tend to revolve around big box stores. That’s who has the sales, that’s what the press focuses on and that’s where people put their attention.
Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

But that does not mean that the holiday season may not be important to your business, for instance many retail stores still rely on holiday sales. But whether December is your busy season, or yours occurs in the summer or fall, the question remains: How do you get ready for your busiest time of year?

 

Here are 4 tips to help you along the way:

 

1. Get your store or website ready: When you know more people, and new people, will be coming into your business, you need to put on your best face. If the store needs some paint and repairs, get to it. If your site needs some new content, do it. If you do your job right, not only will you impress them, but you will sell to them too.

 

2. Get your staff ready: Businesses that succeed during a busy season get their staff on board. This means getting them to have the right attitude. If you expect them to work extended or odd hours, make sure you make it worth their time and show your appreciation. Small gestures of thanks can have long-term benefits.

 

3. Choose a loss leader: If you want to increase sales, then try the loss leader strategy. Pick an item that you know will be popular and put it on sale. Discount it to the extent possible and then get word out via your advertising and social media. This will do two things:

 

  1. It will get people in the shop: Having a super deal on a super item will draw people in.
  2. It will get people to buy other things: The purpose of a loss leader is that, while you may not make a profit on the sale item, it will lead to more sales of other items, items that you will make a dandy profit on.

 

4. Prepare your e-strategy: These days, as you well know, people often check you out online before coming into your business. So before your busy season starts, it would behoove you to put a social media schedule in order and have people sign up for your e-newsletter to get early-bird word on special offers and sales.

 

Nov 20 pull quote.pngFinally, a word of caution: The worst thing you can do is get your promotions and programs all revved up and not be ready if they do, in fact, pan out. I once worked with a local pizza restaurant that had great pizza but no customers. So we put together a promotion and PR plan and before long, the local food critic came in are tried the place out. He loved it and the next Friday wrote a rave review in the paper. That night, the place was packed.

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Getting Ready for Your Busy Season

Posted by Steve Strauss in Advertising, Sales and Marketingon Nov 20, 2012 9:04:36 AM

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngI saw a statistic recently that was pretty interesting: According to CNN, last year, despite all the bad news about the economy, Black Friday set a record with over $50 billion being spent with sales up 16% over the previous year. So that’s good news for small businesses this year, right?

 

  1. Wrong.

 

Here’s why: I recently saw some other statistics that are even more interesting, and for our purposes, far more relevant. According to the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (click to download PDF),

 

  • The vast majority of small businesses see little to no benefit from Black Friday or Cyber Monday. In fact 91% of small business owners surveyed said that the two post-Thanksgiving shopping days had minor (or no) impact on their business.
  • As such, and not surprisingly, 81% said that they thought that Cyber Monday was overhyped.

 

At first blush, I was surprised at the results of the survey, but after thinking about it more it made sense. All of those post-Thanksgiving sales tend to revolve around big box stores. That’s who has the sales, that’s what the press focuses on and that’s where people put their attention.
Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

But that does not mean that the holiday season may not be important to your business, for instance many retail stores still rely on holiday sales. But whether December is your busy season, or yours occurs in the summer or fall, the question remains: How do you get ready for your busiest time of year?

 

Here are 4 tips to help you along the way:

 

1. Get your store or website ready: When you know more people, and new people, will be coming into your business, you need to put on your best face. If the store needs some paint and repairs, get to it. If your site needs some new content, do it. If you do your job right, not only will you impress them, but you will sell to them too.

 

2. Get your staff ready: Businesses that succeed during a busy season get their staff on board. This means getting them to have the right attitude. If you expect them to work extended or odd hours, make sure you make it worth their time and show your appreciation. Small gestures of thanks can have long-term benefits.

 

3. Choose a loss leader: If you want to increase sales, then try the loss leader strategy. Pick an item that you know will be popular and put it on sale. Discount it to the extent possible and then get word out via your advertising and social media. This will do two things:

 

  1. It will get people in the shop: Having a super deal on a super item will draw people in.
  2. It will get people to buy other things: The purpose of a loss leader is that, while you may not make a profit on the sale item, it will lead to more sales of other items, items that you will make a dandy profit on.

 

4. Prepare your e-strategy: These days, as you well know, people often check you out online before coming into your business. So before your busy season starts, it would behoove you to put a social media schedule in order and have people sign up for your e-newsletter to get early-bird word on special offers and sales.

 

Nov 20 pull quote.png

http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/growing-your-business/salesandmarketing/blog/2012/11/20/getting-ready-for-your-busy-season

 

Secrets to Managing Your Cash Flow

Secrets to Managing Your Cash Flow

Posted by Steve Strauss in General Businesson Nov 13, 2012 9:04:36 AM

A few years ago I did a series of columns for USA TODAY about how to be a successful franchisee. Although I have started two businesses, I had never owned a franchise, and so I spoke with several people in the franchising industry, including a few very successful franchisees.Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png I wanted to know what the successful franchisee does right.

 

Some of the things were self-evident: Great franchisees tended to be great bosses, they understood marketing and advertising, they took advantage of all of the perks that came with the franchise system and so on.

 

But one trait that came out of this research was unexpected: Successful franchisees are good at managing their cash flow.

 

Cash flow? Yes, cash flow.

 

A Subway franchisee explained it with this story: A competitor had opened an ice cream franchise near him one spring. The store had been very busy all summer but by the next February, it was out of business. The gossip on the street was that the owner did not manage his cash flow properly— he hadn’t planned for business to slow down in the winter and had not budgeted to make his summer windfall last through the colder months.
Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

 

When discussing entrepreneurship and small business, plenty of big, fun ideas get bandied about, but cash flow usually is not one of them. And yet, the fact is if you want to be successful then you have to manage your cash flow well, period. It is one of those unglamorous, yet completely necessary, things that make a business work.

 

Consider this sobering statistic from Dun & Bradstreet’s Failure and Startups Analysis: Businesses doing cash flow planning once a year have only a 36 percent survival rate ovnov 13 pull quote.pnger five years compared to those that plan monthly, which have an 80 percent survival rate.

 

(A side note: It is important to understand that cash flow is not the same as profit, though they may seem similar. Cash flow is the cash position your business is in every month as funds come into and out of your business. Profit is the excess of income after expenses.)

 

My friends here at Bank of America and I presented a webinar on November 8 (if you missed it, check it out here), where we discussed cash flow management and highlighted just how important cash flow is to the success of a small business. We also developed a white paper (An Introduction to Cash Flow Management), which is accessible here on the Small Business Community.  These materials were designed to help you better understand how to manage your cash flow, which can essentially be divided into two categories – inflow and outflow.  If you can get a handle on each of these, your cash flow situation will be solid.

 

Inflow is simply a matter of making money and getting paid. To increase your inflow, you need to:

 

  • Invoice on time
  • Get your invoices paid on time (no more Net 60!)
  • Have enough sales to generate enough ongoing income to handle your debts (your outflow) in a timely manner

 

Outflow is your costs. It is the combination of your debts, expenses, overhead, taxes, labor and so on. Aside from maximizing your inflow, the other way to increase your cash flow situation then is to get a handle on your outflow. This would include:

 

http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/11/13/secrets-to-managing-your-cash-flow

5 Common Issues That Small Business Owners Face

5 Common Issues That Small Business Owners Face
Posted by Steve Strauss in General Business on Sep 25, 2012 9:03:57 AM

In the 1950s, Ray Kroc was just a milkshake mixer salesman, when one day while making the rounds he came across a restaurant owned by Richard and Maurice McDonald. Kroc was not only amazed by how few items the restaurant sold and how clean it Steve-Strauss–in-article-Medium.pngwas, but also by how efficiently it was run. He convinced the brothers to make him their agent for the restaurant and within a few years, he bought them out completely and had the dream of taking the concept coast-to-coast.

Here, though, Kroc ran into a problem. He needed a way to make it possible for the restaurant to stay successful even when operating in another place, where the support and resources available might be different or even nonexistent. His solution? Turn the business into a franchise. That is, replicate exactly how the brothers had run their successful restaurant and make the same support and resources available to the entire line of businesses.

Kroc coined a phrase to explain the concept: “In business for yourself, but not by yourself.” The idea is that with franchising, you not only are buying a system and brand, but also a built-in team to help you so that you don’t have to do everything alone. Ray Kroc hoped to show potential franchisees that by working with him and by becoming a McDonald’s franchisee, their path to small business success would be easier.

Small business owners, no matter the industry, have faced and will always face common issues. After all, while flipping burgers is different than, say, selling flowers, both businesses still require that the owner deal with taxes, handle employees, get customers, etc. They are not that dissimilar. And becoming part of a franchise might not always be the best solution to a problem – it’s just one of the many creative ways to look at solving any of the common issues for small business owners.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

Here are five common issues that all small business owners face:

1. Getting the help they need: The two complaints that I hear most often from other small business owners are “not enough time” and ”not enough money.” Not surprisingly, the issues are tied to one another.

A lack of extra capital means that many small business owners do too much themselves. Not only does that result in the ”not enough time” conundrum, but ironically, it reinforces the ”not enough money” one too. The fact is, you can really only grow your business by spending the dough to bring in the help you need. That will create an alternate cycle where (hopefully) you can make more money and thus bring in even more help.

2. The cash crunch: A declaration of “not enough money” oftentimes means there is a cash crunch, and there are all kinds of reasons for them. You might own a seasonal business that makes very little revenue at some points of the year. You might need to spend unexpectedly to upgrade equipment. Whatever the reason, there are a few smart ways to deal with this problem:

Budget better: If you know you are always extra busy around the holidays, then you simply must make that money last all year long.
Create additional profit centers: Again, if you’re a holiday seasonal business, figure out a way to make money during the summer as well as in December.
Get a loan or line of credit: Educate yourself on the best avenues to new capital. Take advantage of the financial institutions that are in business to help you get the capital you need.

3. Challenging clients: Back when I practiced law, we had a saying that we thought was clever but is probably said by many in a client service business: “It would be a great business,” we would joke, “if it weren’t for the clients.”

Look, we all have them – problem clients. The question really is, what do you do about them? One school of thought is simply to tolerate them, and that makes sense, especially if they are an important client. However, sometimes, when the bad client goes from challenging to a real distraction from other important things, the only thing to do is to cut them loose.

4. Recruiting and retaining top talent: One thing the best business owners know is that they are only as good as their people. The challenge for the small businessperson is that keeping great talent around can be tough when budgets don’t always allow for big raises. The trick then is to find out what your best people need and give that to them, whether it be recognition, training, a better title, an opportunity to try something new, or room for advancement.

For more, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/25/5-common-issues-that-small-business-owners-face

5 Ways to Get More Involved in Your Local Community

Legendary Bostonian, Irish political pontificator extraordinaire and one-time Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil famously said, “All politics is local.” What he meant by that is that no matter how big you think you are (or really are), you risk falling from grace if you forget to take care of your base. You can be Speaker of the House and spar with the President, but if you fail to get that pothole on Quarry Street fixed, you may not get re-elected.

 

This is also true in business.

Even in this digital age, when so many of us do business with people across the Internet, it can be a big mistake to forget that even still, “All business is local.” After all, you bank with a local banker, you hire local people, you shop in local stores and you likely sell to the local community. So having a good relationship and establishing a solid reputation with people in your community is usually good for business.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

Here are five ways to get more involved in your community:


1. Sponsor something: In this time of less funding and tight budgets, there are a few things you can do to endear yourself to the community. One good way is to sponsor a worthwhile cause. Some local sponsorship opportunities include:

 

  • A youth sports team: The tried and true option, sponsoring a team helps the team itself, helps the league and helps you get business, as parents are likely to support someone in turn who is supporting their kids. Downsides? What downsides?
  • A community event: It could be a concert in the park or the local farmers market, but whatever the case, event sponsorships are a great way to build community loyalty.
  • A show: Again, there is no shortage of options: You could sponsor the local PBS station, the opera, or anything in between.

 

2. Network: Networking groups are great because they actively encourage members to give business to one another. Your local chamber of commerce undoubtedly has a very good networking group. Additionally, you might want to check out Le Tip International, a professional leads organization, or an online MeetUp group that gathers in your area.

 

3. Start an internship program: College students need a place to gain experience and hone their skills, and you need extra help at no extra cost. Offering internships, then, can be a win-win situation. Not only does it help connect you with the interns and their friends and family, it also gives you an “in” with your local university or community college. As with many things in business, you never know when that connection may pay unexpected dividends. For example, you might get the opportunity to serve as a case study for a marketing plan.

 

4. Volunteer: Volunteering is of course its own reward, but it can also help your business grow. It establishes you as a solid, engaged member of the community. By encouraging your staff to volunteer with local worthwhile causes, your business will become known as a community team player. People reward that sort of thing, you know.

 

For more on this article, http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/generalbusiness/blog/2012/09/18/5-ways-to-get-more-involved-in-your-local-community

Marketing Your Small Business for Back-to-School? Two Key Tips to Clear Through the Clutter

It’s that time of year again— time to get the kids ready for back-to-school. And while you’re buying new school supplies and clothes for the kids, why not think about some new ideas for your small business as well? One smart idea that many small business owners implement this time of year is to market their business with the back-to-school season in mind. With so many families focusing on school, it makes a lot of sense.

Don’t think that your business has to sell services or products to families to cash in on the back-to-school fever. Really, any business can tap into this moment in time. For instance, an accounting firm can put a back-to-school spin on some promotions, such as: “Is your small business’ math not up to speed? Don’t worry, you don’t need a tutor; instead contact the Jones Accounting Firm and get A’s on your next financials.”

The key to marketing your business for back-to-school is twofold: First, you need to have the right angle. Second, you need to have the right vehicle. Let’s look at both.

The Right Angle: There’s no shortage of competition out there when it comes to back-to-school promotions. Here’s why: marketers focus on where people put their attention, and right now, for families, returning to school is getting that attention. So, it’s important to be smart with your marketing efforts so that you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

I once had a master marketer tell me that the key to marketing in a crowded field is “waves and dips.” He explained that while it is smart to catch a wave like back-to-school because it is where the eyeballs are, the key to standing out is the dip. That is, you need to position yourself in a spot where the rest of the wave marketers are not.

What constitutes a dip? Really it is anything that you can do that sets your business apart from everyone else. The accounting firm above did that by tapping into the fall mindset. Whereas most back-to-school promotions are for clothing and office supply stores, Jones Accounting promoted a business that is not normally associated with back-to-school promotions. That is a classic “dip” promotion.

Your dip could be:

A loss leader sale of an item that is not normally found on sale.
An ad campaign that is really different. My dad once brought an elephant to his carpet store in September. While it did attract a lot of kids and parents looking for rides, Dad was not prepared for, shall we say, “Cleanup on aisle 3.” So be careful.The bottom line is you need to be different enough so that you stand out among all the surfers trying to catch the same wave.

The Right Vehicle: One of the great things about marketing today is that there are so many ways to get the word out: Pay-per-click, traditional ads, blogs, Twitter, etc.

While I am a big proponent of all of these new forms of media because they work and generally are very affordable, in this case, I would suggest that the tried is also true. Where are the parents? What do they read, watch and listen to? Wherever your audience is, that is where you need to be.

Some options: go the http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/growing-your-business/salesandmarketing/blog/2012/09/04/marketing-your-small-business-for-back-to-school-two-key-tips-to-clear-through-the-clutter