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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bank Survey


I recently came across an article describing a small business survey you may find useful. The U.S. Bank 2014 Annual Small Business Survey measured the opinions of more than 3,000 small business owners on the state of the national and local economy, general business conditions and challenges, as well as their outlook for 2015, which is trending positive. Here are some of the survey results:

The Economy
In 2014, 56 percent of small business owners said they feel that the national economy is in a state of recovery or expansion, up significantly from 46 percent last year.

Looking ahead to 2015, more small business owners are hopeful about the potential for economic growth. Fewer business owners think the economy will be in recession in 2015 (41 percent), and while fewer think the economy will be in recovery in 2015, significantly more believe the economy will be expanding in 2015 (16 percent) than those who believe it is expanding now (4 percent).

Business Conditions
More than two-thirds of business owners (70 percent) believe their business is in good financial health today, up from 64 percent five years ago. The percentage of those who report higher revenue continues to hover between 25-30 percent, which has been the case since 2010. The percentage of business owners who said they expect revenue to be higher next year dropped significantly in 2013, and increased only slightly in 2014. Those who say they plan to hire, make capital expenses or who have needed to seek financing for their business remains below 30 percent.

Top Issues Facing Small Businesses
Last year, with the fiscal cliff and government shutdown unfolding, more than one in five saw the federal budget deficit as the most important national issue. This year, only 14 percent of owners list it as their top concern, down 8 percent from 2013. While no single issue is top on the minds of owners, healthcare is now tied with the federal budget/deficit as the primary concern, followed by taxes.

Technology
Small business owners nationwide are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. According to survey, they are more likely than the general population to define themselves as innovators and early adopters of new technology, and mobile capabilities are among the ways they are using it to get an edge. Across the country, 75 percent of small business owners said they have integrated mobile technology into their business strategy, whether through mobile banking, social networking, web design, payments or other uses. Among them, business owners said that offering a mobile-friendly website added the most value for their business.

In addition to looking to new technology to position their businesses in the marketplace, 64 percent of small business owners maintain a social media presence to make connections, find talent or market their business. Those who maintain a presence said that Facebook was most effective, followed closely by LinkedIn.

How does your business compare? Are you positioned for 2015?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Exporting Considerations You Better Know


7 BASIC AREAS  FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND
The continuing changes in the world marketplace suggests awareness in order to mount the best possible campaign.

I    KNOW IMPORT REGULATIONS IN YOUR TARGET MARKET
Non tariff trade barriers pernicious to market entry.  Ex:  1.    Consumer safety laws in the EU.  2.    Import licenses & quotas in Latin American countries.  3,    Import Tariff valuation - is shipping chgs. part of the applicable tariff?

II    LOGISTICS
Transport facilities locally - food prods. delayed at entry port with total loss due to deterioration.  Check out free zone
facilities.   Ports costs & fees that affect the landed cost to your customer.

III    DISTRIBUTION
Determine if any local gov'ts. have bias toward the USA.   Ex:   Some Middle East countries stigmatize types of prods. that have ethnic issues.   Obviously the full progression of know prods. are moved toward the user need to be understood from wholesale to retail to ultimate destination.   Regional dist. cntrs. are an effective way to enter the market.  Packaging should be consistent with what the local client has had experience with - not radical changes.

IV    CREDIT PATTERS
Know how customary payment is made.   Ex:   60 day delays are considered same as cash.    Or, 180 days from billing date is not unusual.   NOTE:   Learn how to gather credit info on your clients - thru D & B, local refs., other US exporters,  

V    ADVERTISING    TV and magazine publication vary widely due to the demographics of wealth.    Rely on your customer -   some type of co-op.  News papers are widely read & noted.  

VI    LEGAL
Protective measure taken to avoid loss of brand names.   Register it or it may be bought up by a rival.  Know what after sale rights your costumers have.   Prior to any contractual arrangements determine what is involved upon cancellation.
Ex:   In Puerto Rico a contract is a lifetime agreement and can only be cast asunder by the local signee.

VII    STATISTICS
Be aware of your competition.  Where is it coming from.   China?   Or, a local alternative product.

Bottom line:   NEVER agree to any territorial market on the basis of just getting an order.   Every agreement must have an ending date based on mutually agreed performance.


Henry Samuel Certified SCORE counselor;    hanksamuel2@gmail.com

visit us at: www.scoresouthflorida.net

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Product Deficiencies


At best product deficiencies are an embarrassment and tarnish your reputation. At worst they put you out of business! So you must pay attention to this issue even if you do not manufacture the product yourself. Let me cite some examples as reminders:

Auto companies have done such a poor job of dealing with this issue that government agencies have been created to attempt to keep them within bounds, and even that has not been foolproof.

Restaurants and food suppliers often provide food products that make people sick, once again, even with government oversight at some levels.

A man recently purchased some new brand name boxer shorts. The normal boxer short has a fly section that is about 6-7 inches long. These measured about 2-3 inches and the opening started just below the waste band. Think about that for a moment. I do not know many men who would find this opening of much value.

A tour company promises to show customers rare animals in their natural habitat but the animals do not make an appearance.

There are more examples of course. How about those in your business? Have you trained your employees on handling such issues?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

SCORE Announces Entrepreneur of the Year Awards


At the Annual Luncheon, held December 5th, at Gleaneagles Country Club, in Delray Beach, Florida, Boca SCORE announced the winners of the annual Entrepreneur of the Year awards. They are:

2nd Runnerup: Joseph Riano, President, 3iTechworks, for their innovative Beacon technology,

1st Runnerup: Dennis DeZeeuw, Sustainscape, Inc, for demonstrating rapid growth in revenue and services while providing outstanding sustainable landscaping for Florida residences

Entrepreneur of the Year: Ankit Jain, Pres., Ankit.com,  for the creation, development, and marketing of a host of items, among which his "ear buds" have achieved national distribution, and significantly contributed to sales volume in excess of one million dollars.

In addition to the SCORE Awards, each winner received a personal letter of Congratulation from the Florida Office of Economic Development.

The  annual event was attended by Chapter members,  and also included numerous community and civic leaders

 

Marty Kahn, Score Mentor


 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Seller


WHETHER YOU ARE CALLED A VENDOR, A SALESPERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE, AN ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE, A SALES MANAGER, A DIRECTOR OF SALES, A SALES COORDINATOR OR A VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES YOUR JOB IS TO SELL, SELL, SELL, SELL.

GONE ARE THE DAYS OF WILLIE LOMAN AND BACK SLAPPING ROAD SALESMEN. TODAYS SALES EXECUTIVES ARE PROFESSIONALS WHO DEAL PROFESSIONALLY WITH BUYERS WHO ARE EXREMELY KNOWLEDGEABLE AND PROFESSIONAL.

WHAT IS NECESSARY TO BE A SUCCESSFUL SELLER:

- OVERLAPPING OF OBJECTIVES -

     KNOWLEDGE OF BUYERS MOTIVATION AND OBJECTIVES.

     TURNOVER, PROFIT, ROI, CUSTOMER SERVICE.

     UNDERSTANDING MANUFACTURING PROBLEMS.

     CREATING A MARRIAGE OF COMPANIES.

- STUDYING THE MARKET AND THE MARKETPLACE -

     COMPETITION - STORE AND PRODUCT.

     STORES BUSINESS AND BRANDS.

     OTHER PRODUCTS, PRICES, QUALITY AND SERVICE.

- MARKETING OF PRODUCT -

     FITTING INTO THE MARKET.

     GETTING INTO THE STORE.

     PROMOTIONS AND GUARANTEE.

     HELPING THE BUYER DO HIS OR HER JOB.

- INTEGRITY, BELIEVEABILITY, HONESTY, PARTNERSHIP -

     THE COMPANIES SHOULD BLEND AND BE COMPATIBLE.

     SALESPEOPLE SERVE THE NEEDS OF THE CUSTOMER.

- PROPER PLACEMENT OF  ORDERS -

     HONEST ASSORTMENT OF MERCHANDISE.

     CORRECT BREADTH AND DEPTH.

     TEST FOR QUALITY, FASHION AND PRICE.

SELLERS SHOULD PLAY FOR THE LONG RUN PARTNERSHIP.

 

Herb Douglas, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Customers Count


I recently came across an article in an airline magazine discussing some results of a survey by Vision Critical, an analytics organization. They outlined the following as crucial to keep people speaking highly of your business:

Annual cost of unhappy customers = $537 Billion

Businesses that claim customer experience as a top priority = 90%

Businesses that deliver excellent customer experience = 3%

Customers who won’t buy from businesses with negative online reviews = 80%

Lost Customers who say companies could have prevented it =81%

 
Is there something you can learn for your business from this?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Impact of Property Ownership


Many small businesses rent the property they use, but how many really understand the implications of who owns the property? Do you?

I am aware of two adjacent retail complexes in the same city that have very different ownership issues. In one complex (called “A”) consisting of retail and office space one person owns all the rental units. In the second complex (called “B”), each unit is individually owned, consists of retail, office and residential units and operates as a condominium.  Which of these models would you think is better for the tenant business? After all, the goal of the retail space owner is to maximize income from the space in either model.

Both models have unified rental policies for their complex, “A” because one person owns them all; “B” because there is one condo board that creates general guidelines for unit owners.

“A” gives a prospective retail tenant space options that are or may become available, sets the rent and attempts to insure compatibility among the tenants. The unit owner in “B” attempts to hold on to a prospective retail tenant for his unit only, has to compete with other units in the complex for rent, and does not pay much attention to compatibility among others in the complex. All this makes movement from space to space and landlord to landlord a way of life in “B”.

“A” makes sure the tenants understand the “rules”. “B” hopes the unit owners pass the “rules” on to the retail tenant, leading to potential confusion at best. Legal issues and closed businesses are also a result. In this case it is up to the prospective tenant to seek out the “rules” in advance and stay on top of them over time.

“A” operates like a monopoly within it’s complex, “B” is a competitive market within it’s complex.

When the economy is tough, both complexes have space available.

 
Which is better for your business?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014 Tax Provisions for Business: A Review


Whether you file as a corporation or sole proprietor here's what business owners need to know about tax change for 2014.

Standard Mileage Rates
The standard mileage rates in 2014 are as follows: 56 cents per business mile driven, 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses
Small business employers who pay at least half the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit as long as they employ fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers and average annual wages do not exceed $51,000 (adjusted for inflation).

Starting in 2014, the tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees' premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers). For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit was 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as charities.

Year-End Tax Planning for Businesses

While the fate of several business-related tax extenders such as R & D credits, bonus depreciation, and Section 179 expensing that expired at the end of 2013 is uncertain, there are still a number of end of year tax strategies businesses can use to reduce their tax burden for 2014.

Purchase New Business Equipment

Section 179 Expensing. Business should still take advantage of Section 179 expensing this year for a couple of reasons. First, is that in 2014 businesses can elect to expense (deduct immediately) the entire cost of most new equipment up to a maximum of $25,000 for the first $200,000 of property placed in service by December 31, 2014. Keep in mind that the Section 179 deduction cannot exceed net taxable business income. In addition, unless Congress reauthorizes it, the bonus depreciation expired at the end of 2013 and is not available for 2014.

While most businesses follow a calendar year, for those that don't there is an exception to the $25,000 cap that allows those business to take advantage of the $500,000 Section 179 benefit. However, only businesses whose calendar year begins in 2013 and ends in 2014 can take advantage of this.

Qualified property is defined as property that you placed in service during the tax year and used predominantly (more than 50 percent) in your trade or business. Property that is placed in service and then disposed of in that same tax year does not qualify, nor does property converted to personal use in the same tax year it is acquired.

Note: Many states have not matched these amounts and, therefore, state tax may not allow for the maximum federal deduction. In this case, two sets of depreciation records will be needed to track the federal and state tax impact.

Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding qualified property.

Timing. If you plan to purchase business equipment this year, consider the timing. You might be able to increase your tax benefit if you buy equipment at the right time. Here's a simplified explanation:

Conventions. The tax rules for depreciation include "conventions" or rules for figuring out how many months of depreciation you can claim. There are three types of conventions. To select the correct convention, you must know the type of property and when you placed the property in service.

The half-year convention: This convention applies to all property except residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores (see mid-month convention below) unless the mid-quarter convention applies. All property that you begin using during the year is treated as "placed in service" (or "disposed of") at the midpoint of the year. This means that no matter when you begin using (or dispose of) the property, you treat it as if you began using it in the middle of the year.

Example: You buy a $40,000 piece of machinery on December 15. If the half-year convention applies, you get one-half year of depreciation on that machine.

The mid-quarter convention: The mid-quarter convention must be used if the cost of equipment placed in service during the last three months of the tax year is more than 40 percent of the total cost of all property placed in service for the entire year. If the mid-quarter convention applies, the half-year rule does not apply, and you treat all equipment placed in service during the year as if it were placed in service at the midpoint of the quarter in which you began using it.

The mid-month convention: This convention applies only to residential rental property, nonresidential real property, and railroad gradings and tunnel bores. It treats all property placed in service (or disposed of) during any month as placed in service (or disposed of) on the midpoint of that month.

If you're planning on buying equipment for your business, call us first. We'll help you figure out the best time to buy it to take full advantage of these tax rules.

Other Year-End Moves to Take Advantage Of

Business Energy Investment Tax Credit

Business energy investment tax credits are still available for eligible systems placed in service on or before December 31, 2016, and businesses that want to take advantage of these tax credits can still do so.

Business energy credits include solar energy systems (passive solar and solar pool-heating systems excluded), fuel cells and microturbines, and an increased credit amount for fuel cells. The extended tax provision also established new credits for small wind-energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. Utilities are allowed to use the credits as well.

Partnership or S-Corporation Basis. Partners or S corporation shareholders in entities that have a loss for 2014 can deduct that loss only up to their basis in the entity. However, they can take steps to increase their basis to allow a larger deduction. Basis in the entity can be increased by lending the entity money or making a capital contribution by the end of the entity's tax year.

Caution: Remember that by increasing basis, you're putting more of your funds at risk. Consider whether the loss signals further troubles ahead.

Retirement Plans. Self-employed individuals who have not yet done so should set up self-employed retirement plans before the end of 2014. Call us today if you need help setting up a retirement plan.

Dividend Planning. Reduce accumulated corporate profits and earnings by issuing corporate dividends to shareholders.

Budgets. Every business, whether small or large should have a budget. The need for a business budget may seem obvious, but many companies overlook this critical business planning tool.

A budget is extremely effective in making sure your business has adequate cash flow and in ensuring financial success. Once the budget has been created, then monthly actual revenue amounts can be compared to monthly budgeted amounts. If actual revenues fall short of budgeted revenues, expenses must generally be cut.

Tip: Year-end is the best time for business owners to meet with their accountants

 

Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 7


WEEK #7

#31 USE A "P.S." IN YOUR SALES LETTERS

Handwrite the PS or circle parts of your literature that would be of special interest to a prospective client. Handwrite or underline important points in the letter. Reinforce the offer. Introduce a surprise benefit.

#32 THANKS A MILLION

Show customer appreciation by mailing a Lottery Ticket with your Thank You note.

#33 A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Spray a scent on your letter that will help sell your product. Cleaning service: spray a pine or lemon scent. Cosmetics: spray a perfume.

#34 CROSS SELL

When a customer buys one product, give them a sample of another, or a gift certificate towards another product or service. A deli could put out samples of chips at the register; a computer repair service could give a customer a gift certificate for a free training session.

#35 READ ALL ABOUT ME

If you're in business for yourself it might be your personal resume. If you have a company with employees, you could create a company resume that highlights your clients, testimonials, years of experience, employees, and so on. This will help build the trust of your customers by demonstrating your competence

 
This is the last in the series. Hope you gain from it.

 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

 

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Behavior and Business


A friend approached me with this story recently:

It seems there is a “Bully” operating a store in a retail district. Prospective customers, Mr & Mrs. Smith (not their real names) went into a local gift shop. Inside they found a man yelling at an employee: “You see those sidewalks outside and all the adjacent shops…I own them you idiot!!” (Actually his parents owned only two shops in the area). The screamer then ran across the shop, shoving Mrs. Smith out of his way as he did so, and grabbed the store employee by the shoulders. Mr. & Mrs. Smith quickly left the shop. Later that day, Mr. Smith was addressing a large group meeting in a nearby hotel. His subject was “Doing retail business in this city”. What do you think he said?

What would you do if your business was adjacent to this one?

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 6

WEEK #6

#26 NOW THAT'S A GUARANTEE!

Guarantee your product or service in unique terms. "90-day-like-it-or-get-your-money-back-AND-a-pound-of-chocolates-guarantee" With the potential buyer considering two similiar products or serrvices, which one do you think they will choose?

 #27 NICE TO KNOW YOU, JOHN

If your allow your customers to use your bathroom facilities, keep them clean, well stocked, and smelling great. Have a rack with some business literature. At a time when they are most open to think about your business provide them with a pleasurable experience.

#28 JUST SAY YES

If customers or clients come to your place of business, greet them with signs that say Yes instead of No. "Yes, we do take checks", "Yes, we cheerfully refund within 30 days of purchase", Yes, you're why we're here".

#29 DOLLAR DAYS

Attach a brand new dollar bill in with your letter/brochure/literature. Than add a tag line, "Your time is worth money" or "Would tou like to see more of these? I can help". You will get a response!

#30 BILLS WITH BENEFITS

Include a brochure and a business card when you send invoices to your customers. This will either get in the hands of the customer and encourage a repeat purchase, or it will be received by the accounting department, who often influence the company's purchases. And if your suppliers could be your customers, send THEM a brochure when you pay THEIR invoice.

 
Watch for the last is this series next week!

Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...Week 5


WEEK #5

#21 FOUR GREAT TIPS FROM FOUR GREAT LEADERS

Number one: Be confident in who you are.  Wise people know that money can be easily lost and easily made. (Henry Ford). The only thing that really matters is learning how to create and offer value.

#22 TIP #2 FROM FOUR GREAT LEADERS

"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success" (John D. Rockefeller). Success is achieved by those who choose to risk failure and even ridicule in order to create something completely new.

#23 TIP #3 FROM FOUR GREAT LEADERS

Know when to move on. (Donald Trump). "There is a big difference between perseverance and stubbornness. Stubbornness involves me forcing things to work, while perseverance requires me to work consistently with what's ALREADY working.

#24 TIP #4 FROM FOUR GREAT LEADERS

"Pursue excellence, not fame", (Jay Z). Many people do achieve quick success with a product or service, even as a startup, and that makes them feel special. They then ignore critical feedback from partners and clients. Once they stop learning it can spell the end of the business. Always remember, "Fame may be who you once were, Excellence is who you are".

#25 DOUBLE UP

Hand customers a SECOND business card to give to a friend. On the back of one card write the customer's name. Tell him/her if the person they hand that card to does business with you, you will give both of them 10% off their first/next order.

 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tips for Self-Employeed Taxpayers


If you are an independent contractor or run your own business, there are a few basic things to know when it comes to your federal tax return. Here are six tips you should know about income from self-employment:

Self-employment income can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.

You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040.

You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax. Make sure to file the schedule with your tax return.

You may need to make estimated tax payments. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You may be charged a penalty if you do not pay enough taxes throughout the year.

You can deduct some expenses you paid to run your trade or business. You can deduct most business expenses in full, but some must be 'capitalized.' This means you can deduct a portion of the expense each year over a period of years.

You can deduct business costs only if they are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.

 
Questions? We have answers. Give us a call

Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three Most Common Budgeting Errors



When it comes to creating a budget, it's essential to estimate your spending as realistically as possible. Here are three budget-related errors commonly made by small businesses and some tips for avoiding them.

Not Setting Goals. It's almost impossible to set spending priorities without clear goals for the coming year. It's important to identify, in detail, your business and financial goals and what you want or need to achieve in your business.

Underestimating Costs. Every business has ancillary or incidental costs that don't always make it into the budget--for whatever reason. A good example of this is buying a new piece of equipment or software. While you probably accounted for the cost of the equipment in your budget, you might not have remembered to budget time and money needed to train staff or for equipment maintenance.

Failing to Adjust Your Budget. Don't be afraid to update your forecasted expenditures whenever new circumstances affect your business. Several times a year you should set aside time to compare budget estimates against the amount you actually spent, and then adjust your budget accordingly.

Call our office if you want to discuss setting up a budget to meet your business financial goals. We're happy to help.

 
Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor


 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Technologies to Watch

 
To help you look forward I am providing information presented by a technology industry leader:
Dr. Hossein Eslambolchi is an innovator, engineer, inventor and author. He joined AT&T Bell Laboratories, and rose to become Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer. He became President and CEO of AT&T Labs and President and AT&T Global Network Operations, and is currently Chairman and CEO of 2020 Venture Partners LLC and CyberFlow Analytics
He makes the following forecast about New Technologies to watch in 2015:
 
- Thumb Print Scanners
- Large Mobile Storage in smart phones
- Fuel cells with battery life exceeding 3-10 days on a single charge
- 3-D printing
- IPv6
- 100 Mbps broadband speed for consumers
- Autonomic computing
- Quantum computing in all types of verticals such as security, surgery and, robotics
- 50 billion end points including RFIF- and GPS-based devices
- 10:1 ratio of wireless devices to wire line
- Speech-to-speech translation in real time will finally become a reality
- Implantation of “nano computers,”
- Green technology will finally become real and affordable
- Wearable Networks: networks that, in case of failure, return to their original state
- Intelligent optical chip will finally become reality.
 
Some of these items can already be seen in the industry. Even if this forecast is only partially correct, we have a lot of change ahead.
 
Consider looking forward to determine how some of these could impact your business.
 
 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor
 
 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 4

 
WEEK #4

#16 TIP #3 FOR FOLLOWING UP LEADS

Follow a script! Have a well planned response. It will help you overcome the fears some business owners experience when making that initial call.

#17 THREE TIPS TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS

If you can just get prospects to chat with you a bit and resonate with them, they will often agree to an appointment. TIP #17: NEVER argue with an objection. Whatever the prospect says is all right. Just say, "I understand",  or "That's fine", or "I hear that from time to time", etc.

#18 TIP #2 TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS

Ask permission to ask "Just a couple of quick questions". Remember this phrase! It's the sure-fire way to keep the prospect engaged. You say, "I totally understand. Before I let you go, may I just ask you a couple of quick questions about that?"

#19 TIP#3 TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS

Now ask questions that get at the prospect's feelings or opinions. Don't ask questions that attempt to qualify the prospect for your product or sefvice. Make it about the prospect, NOT YOU. Let's pretend the prospect just said, "Just send me something in the mail and I'll look it over."  Don't argue with the prospect and say it's no trouble for you to stop by with it. Instead, simply say, "I'd be happy to send you some information. Now of course I want to make sure I send you material that's most relevant to your interests, so let me just ask you a couple of questions to narrow that down". Bingo! You're off to a great dialog.

#20 YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION

Always remember only ONE brand can own a proposition. So take a look at how your competition positions themselves. Look at their tag lines. Read the "about us" on their websites. Palmolive positions itself as "the only soap that softens hands while you do dishes". So make sure your proposition is distinct.

 

Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 3


WEEK #3

#11 THE OPENING KICKOFF

Start every business day by making TWO cold calls. It's a great, proven tactic. You're bound to meet customers who had a great day themselves the day before and are ready to do business with you. Make it a habit EVERY business day.

#12 CALLS TO ACTION

Here are some great calls to action to use in your sales literature. Choose the ones YOU like, then, if possible, change them from time to time to find out the BEST ones for your business: Find out more, Visit now, Get on our mailing list, Join the club now, Take the next step, How to get started, Start here, How it works, Learn more.

#13 FREE AS A BIRD

Here is a list of suggestions when you want to attract customers with something for free: Get it free, It's free-get started, Get this deal, Sign up for your free trial, Free 30 day trial, Try it now, free, Start saving today. And if you want to limit your offer try these: Offer expires X, Limited time offer, for the first X people only, Order now and receive a free gift!

#14 THREE TIPS FOR FOLLOWING UP LEADS

It has been documented that the two biggest mistakes small business owners make in following up sales leads are not having a sense of urgency and not being persistent. "The quality of the prospect goes down significantly as time passes from their request for information". If you don't reach the prospect don't expect THEM to call back. Call them at least twice per day the first week. Here is tip #14: Respond to a prospect within 24 hours, sooner if possible.

#15 TIP #2 FOR FOLLOWING UP LEADS

Set a SPECIFIC time each day to call back leads, and do it religiously.


Tune in next week for more tips

 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 2


WEEK #2

#6 TAKE A CARD, ANY CARD

Produce separate business cards and sales literature for each of your target markets, for example government and commercial or business and consumers. Don't try one size fits all; it's often confusing.

#7 UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Send HAND WRITTEN thank you notes to your customers. The digital world in which we live deprives us of the "personal touch".  People do business with people they like!

#8 COPYCAT

Wnat  to impress your clients that you really care about them? Photocopy interesting articles and send them to clients and prospects with a hand written FYI note, and include your business card.

#9 THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Want your mail opened? Include something that makes a "bump" in the envelope. It could be as simple as a wrapped mint, a product sample, watever. I guarantee it will be opened, because everyone is curious!

#10 SIGNS OF SUCCESS

Get yourself a license plate with your company name or tag line, anything that uniquely identifies you when you pull up, or that promotes you as you drive  about.


Tune in for more tips next week

 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

7 Weeks of Business Tips...week 1


7 Weeks of Business Tips, 5 Tips a Week


Week 1:

#1 SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY

You need to know EVERYTHING about what your competitors are doing. Collect their ads, brochures, print out their website snd STUDY them for their strategy, product or service features, and benefits. We call that sleeping with the enemy.

#2 Q & A WITH YOUR CLIENTS

Do you REALLY know why your customers chose you? Was it price, service, quality, all 3? ASK them: Why did you choose me and how can I serve you even better? Wow, so simple. Talk to your customers!

#3 LESS IS CHEAPER, MORE IS BETTER

OK, this street runs North AND South. Here are 2 choices for you to ponder in your marketing. ONE: Offer a simpler/cheaper/smaller version of your product or service. TWO: Just the opposite: Offer a fancier/bigger/more expensive version. Think about it: Is what you're offering now absolutely the only and best way? This one trick could change your business.

#4 WE CALL THIS INTERNAL MEDICINE

Get a Marketing Intern from an area college to take you on as a client. It will give the intern experience and ptovide you with some very inexpensive marketing help. Check with the Business School of your local universities.

#5 BARTER, BAY, BARTER

So "old school" yet so good. Offer discounts to members of certain clubs/professional groups/organizations in exchange for promotions in their publications.

 

Tune in for more tips next week

 
Marty Kahn, SCORE Mentor


 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Retirement Plan Options for Small Business


Employer-sponsored retirement plans have become a key component for retirement savings. They are also an increasingly important tool for attracting and retaining the high-quality employees you need to compete in today's competitive environment.

Besides helping employees save for the future, however, instituting a retirement plan can provide you, as the employer, with benefits that enable you to make the most of your business's assets. Such benefits include:

  • Tax-deferred growth on earnings within the plan
  • Current tax savings on individual contributions to the plan
  • Immediate tax deductions for employer contributions
  • Easy to establish and maintain
  • Low-cost benefit with a highly-perceived value by your employees

Here's an overview of four retirement plans options that can help you and your employees save:

SIMPLE: Savings Incentive Match Plan


A SIMPLE IRA plan allows employees to contribute a percentage of their salary each paycheck and to have their employer match their contribution. Under SIMPLE IRA plans, employees can set aside up to $12,000 in 2014 (same as 2013) by payroll deduction. If the employee is 50 or older then they may contribute an additional $2,500. Employers can either match employee contributions dollar for dollar - up to 3 percent of an employee's wage - or make a fixed contribution of 2 percent of pay for all eligible employees instead of a matching contribution.

SIMPLE IRA plans are easy to set up by filling out a short form. Administrative costs are low and much of the paperwork is done by the financial institution that handles the SIMPLE IRA plan accounts. Employers may choose either to permit employees to select the IRA to which their contributions will be sent, or to send contributions for all employees to one financial institution. Employees are 100 percent vested in contributions, get to decide how and where the money will be invested, and keep their IRA accounts even when they change jobs.

SEP: Simplified Employee Pension Plan


A SEP plan allows employers to set up a type of individual retirement account - known as a SEP-IRA - for themselves and their employees. Employers must contribute a uniform percentage of pay for each employee. Employer contributions are limited to whichever is less: 25 percent of an employee's annual salary or $52,000 in 2014 ($51,000 in 2013). SEP plans can be started by most employers, including those that are self-employed.

SEP plans have low start-up and operating costs and can be established using a single quarter-page form. Businesses are not locked into making contributions every year. You can decide how much to put into a SEP each year - offering you some flexibility when business conditions vary.

401(k) Plans


401(k) plans have become a widely accepted savings vehicle for small businesses and allows employees to contribute a portion of their own incomes toward their retirement. The employee contributions, not to exceed $17,500 in 2014 (same as 2013), reduce a participant's pay before income taxes, so that pre-tax dollars are invested. If the employee is 50 or older then they may contribute another $5,500 in 2014 (same as 2013). Employers may offer to match a certain percentage of the employee's contribution, increasing participation in the plan.

While more complex, 401(k)plans offer higher contribution limits than SIMPLE IRA plans and IRAs, allowing employees to accumulate greater savings.

Profit-Sharing Plans


Employers also may make profit-sharing contributions to plans that are unrelated to any amounts an employee chooses to contribute. Profit-sharing Plans are well suited for businesses with uncertain or fluctuating profits. In addition to the flexibility in deciding the amounts of the contributions, a Profit-Sharing Plan can include options such as service requirements, vesting schedules and plan loans that are not available under SEP plans.

Contributions may range from 0 to 25 percent of eligible employees' compensation, to a maximum of $52,000 in 2014 ($51,000 in 2013) per employee. The contribution in any one year cannot exceed 25 percent of the total compensation of the employees participating in the plan. Contributions need not be the same percentage for all employees. Key employees may actually get as much as 25 percent, while others may get as little as 3 percent. A plan may combine these profit-sharing contributions with 401(k) contributions (and matching contributions).  complex, and the tax aspects of retirement plans can also be confusing, so call us first. We'll help you find the right plan for you and your employees.

Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor
 

 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tune in Special Series Starting Sunday


7 Weeks of Business Tips, 5 Tips a Week. Starting Sunday tune in to see SCORE Mentor Marty Kahn give you these tips

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Danger of Rewards Programs


Many businesses participate in various “Rewards Programs”. Some promise a rebate or “gift” if and when certain items are purchased or level of purchases is reached. Some of these programs are often set up not to provide the advertised rewards, and this can hurt your business. Here are some examples:

A company sells a product that has a “Reward” card, requiring the purchaser to send in the card with a copy of the purchase receipt and the original bar code from the product packaging, with the promise of a “Reward” within four weeks. The notice often says that processing will not occur if there are any errors or mistakes in the submission. There is no other communication. If and when the purchaser inquires after the four weeks, they are told either that the submission was incomplete or processing is continuing. Unless the purchaser stays on the issue for an extended period of time, adding to frustration, the so called “Reward” never happens.

A company has a point program accumulating points for credit “Rewards” and somehow the points of some number of purchases do not get credited.

Some third party rewards organizations exist and survive on the revenue they produce by not providing the rewards as promised. They make arrangements to purchase such programs at a discount from the business on the promise of not fulfilling the promise.

If you want a happy customer, my advice is to stay away from these programs and the products that use them. If you must use them, verify the quality and stay on top of it.

How many customers are angry with you because of situations like this?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Customer Contact Example


August is ending and I just received a phone call from a seasonal service provider asking if I received the seasonal contact mailing sent about three weeks ago and confirming that I will be using the service this year. The service they provide starts near the end of October each year and runs through the winter season.  They have thousands of customers and I normally execute and pay for the contract service in mid September, so why the call?

I asked and was told they were just checking with the “regulars”. They do have to allocate resources for each customer, so perhaps they are thinking about making a resource change like reducing inventory. Or perhaps there is some new competition, after all I did receive an email last week offering a lower price on some services. Maybe they are looking at the cash flow, as their customers pay when the contract is executed at the start of the season, so there is a large inflow of cash in September. There could be a loan involved here as well. I am aware of expansion wishes they have had for a number of years, maybe now is the time. Perhaps there is an ownership change in the wind. Or maybe they just want to “keep in touch” to retain existing customers.


What value can you place on a few emails, or phone calls?
 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Special Counselor of the Month

                
We are delighted to shine the spotlight on a distinguished member of our staff who by his or her efforts brings great credit to our organization. This month we are honored to salute:


SUSY MACARIO


 

When Susy joined SCORE in 2013 the Membership committee knew we were gaining a terrific new member. Impeccable credentials in the business world, a passion to help others, an insatiable desire to keep on learning, and a readiness to help wherever and whenever she could.
 
The results have exceeded our expectations. With an unlimited reservoir of support for each and every client she assists, Susy devotes endless additional hours following up with every businessperson she serves. Whether it’s handson visits to their places of business, or nurturing calls to see how things are going, Susy is our “Joanie-on-the-spot” encouraging, guiding, supporting. Little wonder so many of Susy’s clients have bonded so strongly to her. They know she cares. Every day.
 
But the story doesn’t stop there. Susy has taken on additional Chapter duties with her appointment to the Executive Committee where she is actively involved in administering our Workshop program. And in the community at large Susy is a strong advocate for small business wherever and whenever she sees an opportunity to help. Lucky community. Lucky clients. Lucky SCORE.
 
And so we are delighted to announce Susy has been elected our Special Counselor of the Month for October, November and December. We are proud to honor her for all she does for her clients and our Chapter. So, take a well deserved bow, Susy!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Unique Print Media Story


Most newspapers in the country are having difficulty keeping circulation up in the face of free online and real time broadcast media. The same is true for magazines and other print media. It is circulation that drives advertising rates in these businesses with the purchase price of the media covering a reduced part of the overall costs over the years. As a result many of these organizations, hemorrhaging red ink, have merged, sold or just closed up shop. One small local newspaper, facing all these pressures came up with a unique concept that has not only kept them alive, but put them back into the black.

They recognized the unique value that made the core business work, “local information”. They leveraged all the resources they could muster to provide more “local information” in one place. Many organizations were providing this information online at no cost, but it was either not local enough (as with a national network or large city news media) or focused only on a limited set of activities. This new “local information” was placed on a web site with appropriate advertising, as one might expect. However, after a few months of testing this, they began a process of charging a subscription fee that was higher than they charged for the printed media.  Up to this point in time, it was unheard of…all news, including local news was on line, free. Now a premium price was required to get the best local news in one place!

The result was a substantial increase in sales of the printed media. People that travelled or were away on vacation could keep in touch using the online site, for a fee. They proved that “local information” has value, and in the process turned the red ink to black. Other print media followed this example.

What can you learn from this?

 
Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Great Customer Service


I recently had the opportunity to have lunch at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard and want to share the service experience as an example of how to do it right. We were a few minutes early for the planned meeting with friends, who were a bit late arriving. The hostess at this crowded restaurant overlooking the water first sat us early. The waitress served drinks. Then the hostess agreed to move us to a table with a better view as a table became available, before our friends arrived. Our new waitress took drink orders then gave us time to review the menu. After the great meal we were left alone while we reviewed ipod pictures of the families, etc. for quite a while. There was no attempt to move us from the table. The team received a very generous gratuity, as a symbol of our appreciation.
 

What would happen in your business?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Do Potential Customers Seek You Out?



Why would they seek you over anyone else?

 
Unique Product or Service?

Lower Prices?

Better Location?

More Responsive?

 
How about because you are The Expert in your field?

 
Why do potential customers seek you out?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 

 

WORK


I recently thought about the word “WORK”. Here is what I found:

As a noun the word means: An activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose. It also means mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; as well as employment.

The opposite (Antonyms) of “Work” are: fun, laziness, unemployment, entertainment, failure, loss, idleness.

Finding the right balance between “work” and it’s “antonyms” is important in all of our lives.

Most of us have times in our lives where “work” is dominant. These are usually the times when we build the resources to allow the “antonyms” to become dominant. When the “antonyms” are dominant it takes a lot of motivation to return to a truly balanced life.

Often that motivation is fear-based: Fear of failure, hunger, housing, enough “antonyms”, etc.

Entrepreneurs and employees alike need to find the appropriate balance for themselves at various stages of their lives. All “Work” or All “Antonyms” does not make a healthy member of society.

 
Are you taking care of yourself and your employees?

 

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


 

 


 

 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cash Flow: The Pulse of your Business


Cash flow is the lifeblood of any small business. Some business experts even say that a healthy cash flow is more important than your business's ability to deliver its goods and services! While that might seem counterintuitive, consider this: if you fail to satisfy a customer and lose that customer's business, you can always work harder to please the next customer. If you fail to have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors, or employees, then you're out of business!

What is Cash Flow?


Cash flow, simply defined, is the movement of money in and out of your business; these movements are called inflow and outflow. Inflows for your business primarily come from the sale of goods or services to your customers, but keep in mind that inflow only occurs when you make a cash sale or collect on receivables. It is the cash that counts! Other examples of cash inflows are borrowed funds, income derived from sales of assets, and investment income from interest.

Outflows for your business are generally the result of paying expenses. Examples of cash outflows include paying employee wages, purchasing inventory or raw materials, purchasing fixed assets, operating costs, paying back loans, and paying taxes.

Note: An accountant is the best person to help you learn how your cash flow statement works. Please contact us and we can prepare your cash flow statement and explain where the numbers come from.

Cash Flow versus Profit


While they might seem similar, profit and cash flow are two entirely different concepts, each with entirely different results. The concept of profit is somewhat broad and only looks at income and expenses over a certain period, say a fiscal quarter. Profit is a useful figure for calculating your taxes and reporting to the IRS.

Cash flow, on the other hand, is a more dynamic tool focusing on the day-to-day operations of a business owner. It is concerned with the movement of money in and out of a business. But more important, it is concerned with the times at which the movement of the money takes place.

In theory, even profitable companies can go bankrupt. It would take a lot of negligence and total disregard for cash flow, but it is possible. Consider how the difference between profit and cash flow relate to your business.

Example: If your retail business bought a $1,000 item and turned around to sell it for $2,000, then you have made a $1,000 profit. But what if the buyer of the item is slow to pay his or her bill, and six months pass before you collect on the account? Your retail business may still show a profit, but what about the bills it has to pay during that six-month period? You may not have the cash to pay the bills despite the profits you earned on the sale. Furthermore, this cash flow gap may cause you to miss other profit opportunities, damage your credit rating, and force you to take out loans and create debt. If this mistake is repeated enough times, you may go bankrupt.

Analyzing your Cash Flow


The sooner you learn how to manage your cash flow, the better your chances for survival. Furthermore, you will be able to protect your company's short-term reputation as well as position it for long-term success.

The first step toward taking control of your company's cash flow is to analyze the components that affect the timing of your cash inflows and outflows. A thorough analysis of these components will reveal problem areas that lead to cash flow gaps in your business. Narrowing, or even closing, these gaps is the key to cash flow management.

Some of the more important components to examine are:

·         Accounts receivable. Accounts receivable represent sales that have not yet been collected in the form of cash. An accounts receivable is created when you sell something to a customer in return for his or her promise to pay at a later date. The longer it takes for your customers to pay on their accounts, the more negative the effect on your cash flow.

·         Credit terms. Credit terms are the time limits you set for your customers' promise to pay for their purchases. Credit terms affect the timing of your cash inflows. A simple way to improve cash flow is to get customers to pay their bills more quickly.

·         Credit policy. A credit policy is the blueprint you use when deciding to extend credit to a customer. The correct credit policy - neither too strict nor too generous - is crucial for a healthy cash flow.

·         Inventory. Inventory describes the extra merchandise or supplies your business keeps on hand to meet the demands of customers. An excessive amount of inventory hurts your cash flow by using up money that could be used for other cash outflows. Too many business owners buy inventory based on hopes and dreams instead of what they can realistically sell. Keep your inventory as low as possible.

·         Accounts payable and cash flow. Accounts payable are amounts you owe to your suppliers that are payable at some point in the near future - "near" meaning 30 to 90 days. Without payables and trade credit, you'd have to pay for all goods and services at the time you purchase them. For optimum cash flow management, examine your payables schedule.

Some cash flow gaps are created intentionally. For example, a business may purchase extra inventory to take advantage of quantity discounts, accelerate cash outflows to take advantage of significant trade discounts, or spend extra cash to expand its line of business.

For other businesses, cash flow gaps are unavoidable. Take, for example, a company that experiences seasonal fluctuations in its line of business. This business may normally have cash flow gaps during its slow season and then later fill the gaps with cash surpluses from the peak part of its season. Cash flow gaps are often filled by external financing sources. Revolving lines of credit, bank loans, and trade credit are just a few of the external financing options available that you may want to discuss with us.

Monitoring and managing your cash flow is important for the vitality of your business. The first signs of financial woe appear in your cash flow statement, giving you time to recognize a forthcoming problem and plan a strategy to deal with it. Furthermore, with periodic cash flow analysis, you can head off those unpleasant financial glitches by recognizing which aspects of your business have the potential to cause cash flow gaps.

Need assistance? We can help you analyze and manage your cash flow more effectively and make sure your business has adequate funds to cover day-to-day expenses.



Barry Eisenberg, SCORE Counselor