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Established Businesses and Growth


  • Submitted on 17 February 2012

    Green CheckmarksGreen dry cleaners, Green energy. Green puppy food. Green car washes. Green wall paints. Green grease removal.

    Green: it’s everywhere.  It’s taught in the first grade.  It’s at the center of many corporate manufacturing and marketing policies. And whether you believe in climate change or still have doubts, consumers are now demanding GREEN.

    Adopting environmentally friendly and energy efficient business practices provides numerous benefits to new and existing small business owners looking to control costs, attract customers and become socially responsible. Non-toxic, recycled, organic, energy efficient, reused, eco-friendly, farm-to-table: these terms, and others, all help define the fast-growing green market. 

    So what can you do as a small business?  Remember, that regardless of what options you choose, each one of them should and must be connected to your marketing strategy and company messaging.  If you adopt energy efficiency practices, let your customers know; if you are committed to local agriculture, let them know, and if your product contains recycled by-products, let them know.  Four out of five consumers say they are still buying environmentally friendly products and services today – which sometimes cost more – even in the midst of a recovering economy.

  • Submitted on 14 February 2012

    Marketing Plan“Before beginning, plan carefully.” 

    The philosophy of the great Roman Orator Cicero is just as appropriate in today’s small business environment as it was in the political arena of the Roman Empire.  A sound and well thought-out marketing plan is an essential part of a firm’s ability to compete in today’s marketplace.  In spite of this, many small businesses take a disorganized or haphazard approach to their marketing efforts and, as a result, fail to capitalize on opportunities to sell more of their products and services. 

    Why do so many take this half-hearted approach?   Many believe it stems from the nature of the entrepreneur, who thrives on action and being intrinsically involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.  Planning is seen as a non-active effort and therefore does not provide the same stimulus as being involved in producing and selling a product and/or service.

    The process of creating a marketing plan involves three steps:

    1. An analysis of the firm’s internal and external environments;

    2. A decision on a “Unique Selling Point” to emphasize and project; and

    3. The selection of action plans (both paid and unpaid) to reach the targeted customer base.

  • Submitted on 13 February 2012

    The U.S. Small Business Administration published a final rule in The Federal Register that will increase some of the size definitions of small businesses in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and Other Services sectors.

    The final rule will increase 37 of the revenue-based size standards in 34 industries and three sub-industries in the “Professional, Scientific and Technical Services” sector.  It will also increase one size standard in the “Other Services” sector.

  • Submitted on 23 January 2012

    EmployeesEmployer Identification Number (EIN)

    An EIN is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity. Employers with employees, business partnerships, and corporations and other types of organizations, must obtain an EIN from the IRS. The EIN is also known as an Employer Tax ID and Form SS-4.

    You are required to have an EIN if you answer “yes” to any of the following six questions:

    1. Do you have employees?

    2. Do you operate your business as either a corporation or partnership?

    3. Do you file any of these tax returns: employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms?

    4. Do you withhold taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien?

    5. Do you have a Keogh plan?

    6. Are you involved with any of the following types of organizations?

  • Submitted on 09 January 2012

    Native American entrepreneurs have a new tool to help determine if they’re ready for business ownership and to help them get started.  Native American Small Business Primer: Strategies for Success is a free, self-paced online business course developed for Native American business owners.  The course provides an overview of basic business principles and  makes them aware of the programs and services available from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

    “Native American Small Business Primer: Strategies for Success will enhance the agency’s effort to provide important resources for emerging Native American entrepreneurs,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills.  “Our ultimate goal is to help create jobs and stimulate economic and business development in our Native American communities. This course is an essential business development tool for the entrepreneur’s toolbox.”

    The new online course: emphasizes business planning and market research as essential steps to take before going into business; informs Native American entrepreneurs about the legal aspects of starting a business, including the type of ownership (legal structure) and licensing; and provides key information on seed money for starting up, raising capital, and borrowing money.  In addition, there is a section on how to estimate business start-up costs that can help assess the financial needs of going into business.

  • Submitted on 04 January 2012

    Record KeepingEveryone in business must keep records.  Keeping good records is very important to your business.  Good records will help you do the following:

    • Monitor the progress of your business
    • Prepare your financial statements
    • Identify source of receipts
    • Keep track of deductible expenses
    • Prepare your tax returns
    • Support items reported on tax returns

    Monitor the progress of your business

    You need good records to monitor the progress of your business. Records can show whether your business is improving, which items are selling, or what changes you need to make.  Good records can increase the likelihood of business success.

  • Submitted on 04 January 2012

    Business ExpensesBusiness expenses are the cost of carrying on a trade or business. These expenses are usually deductible if the business is operated to make a profit.

    To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.

  • Submitted on 23 December 2011

    Recently, I participated in a small business roundtable with the Asian-American Pacific Islander community in Philadelphia. The event was co-hosted by the National Association of Asian American Professionals and the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs, and we were joined by 40 small business owners for a lively discussion on how to do business with the Federal Government.

    Part of our mission at the General Services Administration (GSA) is to make sure that small firms across the country have the opportunity to do business with the government, and we were able to pass on several strategies that small businesses can use to successfully compete in the Federal market.

    First, FedBizOpps is an online tool to help businesses learn about upcoming opportunities with the government. Small businesses can use this tool to preview what the government is looking to buy in the near future. GSA also posts a Forecast of Contracting Opportunities, informing vendors of anticipated contracts offered by GSA for the current fiscal year.

  • Submitted on 07 December 2011

    Business SuccessI know it’s tough to build a business and keep it growing through the years, because I’ve done it. Don’t forget that good business planning can help a growing business stay focused and efficient, even as you manage the daily routine and changing markets. Here are my three favorite easy ways to get back on track with business planning. These are all things I’ve done myself.

    Listen actively to a few of your customers

    I mean this as exactly what it says. I’m not saying you do a market survey or a focus group. I’m saying you really talk to a few (aim for 10 or 15) customers. Get on the phone, tell them you’re the owner or manager, make an appointment, and talk to them about what they think about your business. Make it interesting for them. Ask them interesting questions. Ask them what you do well and what you do poorly. Ask them what else you could be doing. Ask them about other businesses they like and don’t like, even if not related. Ask them what they think about trends, social media, organic food, green technology … make it a real conversation.

    And the talk isn’t what’s important here – it’s the listening that matters. You spark conversation, and then you shut up and listen. And have the good sense to listen well to criticism, not block it out, and learn from it. And do it as the owner of the business, or trusted top managers only. Don’t pay somebody else to do it. You need to see people’s faces, or at least (if you’re on the phone) hear voice inflection. You need to do the listening. The goal is to refresh your sense of what your business is really doing for whom, and why they care.

    We always hear about doing customer surveys or focus groups, which can be valuable when done right, or if they are taken with healthy skepticism. Unfortunately, they are rarely done right and are almost always given too much importance.

  • Submitted on 06 December 2011

    Business ContinuityHere are a few things your can do – at no cost – to jump-start your business continuity plan:

    Determine your greatest risk potential.  It might come from loss of heat, frozen pipes (which can burst, causing water damage), or loss of access caused by icy conditions.  What would happen if you had to shut down your business for several days?  Look at the building where you do business and assess the property damage risks. If you do this early enough, you’ll have time to make structural upgrades that can prevent possible future storm, wind, water or earthquake damage.

    Calculate the cost of business interruptions for one week, one month and six months.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able investigate insurance options or build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the post-disaster recovery phase. It’s also a good idea to develop professional relationships with alternative vendors, in case your primary contractor can’t service your needs.  Place occasional orders with them so they regard you as an active customer when you need them.

    Review your insurance coverage.  Contact your agent to find out if your policy is adequate for your needs. Consult with a business insurance expert to advise you on the right coverage for your situation.  When buying insurance, ask “How much can I afford to lose?”  It’s a good idea to know the value of your property.

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