21 Top Marketing Mistakes Small Business Owners Make

The analogy between marketing and a business is similar to the relationship of body and food. Marketing is the heart of the business. Every business is different so each business has to offer marketing and development, which fits each unique business’s need. There are many ways of developing and marketing for any business, but first let’s find the true concept and definition of marketing.

Marketing definition:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large”.

1- Thinking advertising is marketing:

The biggest mistake most of the business owners make is to think advertising and spending money is the only marketing way exist. This group only focuses on advertising, which when the desire result is not achieved at the end of the month, they complain of how much money they wasted away. Advertisement is merely one of many ways of marketing.

2- You don’t enjoy what you do:

As stated above Marketing has many ways and approaches. The main marketing for your business is to love what you do. Nothing is better than your “Love what you do” attitude since it brings out your creativity, shows your talent and tells everyone how devoted you are to your business. Your daily positive attitude defines the successful future of your business. The love of your business construe in your daily interaction with new clients, employee’s moral and making important and effective marketing decisions. To be a good marketer for your business, first rule is your love for what you do.

3- Don’t have a good business plan:

What is business plan?

“A written document describing the nature of the business, the sales and marketing strategy, and the financial background, and containing a projected profit and loss statement”.

Having a business plan is like having a map. Many businesses start their business ignoring this very effective tool and get lost in the middle of the road. Every business plan states the exact details of the business’s concept and outlines clearly the marketing strategies, profit and loss, demographic, place of business, finances and targeted niche market. In order to make a solid business plan:

A) Know your business inside and out

Knowledge of your business is important to know the answer to all the categories of business plan. If you do not know the concept of your product or service, business plan and the pillar of your business does not exist.

B) Study, analyze and scrutinize

When you know the back and forth of every detail in your business, you can access all the required information needed to project your business in a business plan. In order to access all this information you need to study, analyze and scrutinize every file and information in libraries, city records and valid informative site on the Internet.

C) Print it and have it accessible

When you put all the info together and created your fully detailed business plan, print a copy and keep a file handy and accessible.

Your projected analysis for the business works as a map to your success. Don’t drive to an unknown destination, not having a map on hand.

4- Don’t have any plans:

Marketing and developing its strategy is vital for every business. Marketing works as fertilizer to boost the lawn of your business. Even more importantly, marketing acts like sun to shed light and direction to your business for finding leads for the potential clients. Marketing is like having your open sign on in the dark street. I think I emphasized enough and you understood how important marketing is for any business, small or large.

5- Not analyzing the market for correct pricing.

Every business offers products or services. Then producing and providing the products and services involves certain cost and fees. Setting the price according to the market is very important and cause for a major failure for small businesses if done without market awareness. The root and source to find a perfect price is your business plan. It is necessary for every small business owner to investigate:

A) The demographic income of the targeted niche and audience:

The business plan states the average income of the targeted audience and the niche market. Set prices based on the factual statistic and spending ability of potential clients.

B) Market needs and economy balance:

An involved business owner is always aware of the market needs and the economy balance. Based on your niche market, be on top of the factors of change in economy that can impact your client’s ability to spend. If you deal with bankers and investors, keep up with stock market news and its daily changes and adjust your prices regularly.

C) Competitive market prices:

A business person is always on a lookout for its competitors and is aware of their side of story. It is necessary to know your competitors and adjust your prices based on their offering and similar services.

D) Demand of the product or service:

Investigate the demand before putting the price tag on your product and service. You can find this information through the data in your business plan. Balance your prices based on the market demands;

  • If you projecting a good volume of sale, price it lower than competitors.
  • If the demand is lower and the project of volume is slow, price higher to accommodate the distance between each sale.

E) Uniqueness of the product or service:

A unique product and service in the market attracts more attention. Price it higher than other regular products.

F) Acceptable profit margin range in the area:

Profit margin’s acceptability is always decided based on the market and economy as well as the market demand for the product.

  • Consider a big city. If you have a product or service that is unique, but projecting a high volume of demand, based on the economy and your targeted niche, the profit margin should set higher than normal.
  • In a small community, If you are investing on a product with limited demand, go conservative on your profit margin.

6- Not having any budget

Many small business owners make a big mistake and do not place any budget for daily, monthly or yearly marketing plans. Whatever the profit and loss data projects on your business, it must include certain amount of budget for marketing plans that are realistic and traceable. Unfortunately small business owners mostly have no budget and deduct the cost of marketing plans from their profit data. This particular budget assignment is very effective in the future of business growth. Increase the marketing budget with business slowly reaching the peak of demands for your product and services.

7- Spending money on non-traceable ads

As the market changes, so as the marketing plan, pricing and target audience. Invest and assign marketing plans that are traceable. Traceable marketing means follow-up charts to analyze data.

The worst mistake of marketing is to spend money on a plan that cannot be traced and measured. This marketing mistake is wasting money or in other terms is shooting in the dark.

8- Do not trace the result

Many businesses have assigned a budget for the traceable marketing plan but sadly do not follow-up on the result and do not trace it. This is just the same as spending wasteful money on non-traceable.

9- Think in a closed box:

Each business is unique. Even if the business offers a same product as other business few streets down the road, the two are still unique and different in many ways. The biggest mistake small business owners make is to follow other businesses’ footsteps. Marketing and its strategies should not have any limitation. Think of marketing out side of the box and do not limit the marketing strategies to a cliché approach others do. Be creative and design a plan unique and suitable for the very business.

10- Don’t know what plans to set:

Everyone is familiar with the word marketing. The first conversation when opening a new enterprise is “Lets do marketing!” But do we all really realize the core meaning of it?

I compare marketing strategies and its unique approach to our fingerprints, which is distinctive. Many understand the word marketing but are not familiar with how to set the strategy and the game planning related to the business.

It is a big mistake not knowing how to set the strategies while being fully aware of marketing important role in the business. Since setting the marketing plan requires research, analysis and knowledge of he market, hire a professional researcher and marketer to create the necessary game plan.

11- Assuming the product or service will sell itself:

One of the biggest marketing mistakes is to assume your product or service is going to sell itself. This assumption is misleadingly translating marketing into advertisement. I have met many small business owners who declared that quote-to-quote “I don’t spend money on the marketing, to me I only rely on word of mouth”.

Word Of Mouth is the strongest way of marketing. So what this small business owner was under impression that he does not do any marketing because he thought marketing was spending money on advertisement. So he was counting on the most effective marketing, the word of mouth. Word of mouth consists of two factors:

A) Product or service:

People have to like the product or service to continue talk about it and refer their friends.

B) Customer service

Another major difference between businesses is the level of customer service. I didn’t say the level of good or bad. What I mean is each business owner or employee that has been fully trained to look after a client as a customer service has his or her own charm. This specific charisma and character make the business unique to others and is a major influence for word of mouth.

Let me give you an example of how powerful the word of mouth and spreading the word is to any business. While ago, I worked as a junior manager in an up-scale restaurant. The general manager identified his target niche as young professionals in downtown area. So he hand-picked few employees in the same age range as the targeted niche to use public transportation and talk about the restaurant among each other. His decision, although was not directly traceable, but yet had an amazing effect. How did I analyse the result and witness the proof?

The restaurant offered comment cards, asking “How you hear about us?” and many without any surprise responded via word of mouth in public transportation.

Even if the business owner is avoiding any advertisement cost, they still rely on spread of word about their service and product via the community and the word of mouth marketing.

12- Don’t know the target audience:

To plan and set a marketing strategy, any small business has to have a direct target niche as an audience. Analyze everything about the niche audience. The list certainly is not limited to the audience’s income, age, interest ratio to the product, sex, education, commitment ratio and their loyalty.

13- Don’t know the competition:

The best way to analyze the market is to get familiar with the competition and rivals. It might sound cliché but as the Godfather movie suggested, “Keep you enemy close“. Or if I may rephrase ” Keep your competition close and be aware of their moves”.

This is especially important for small business owners in small community to have a good relationship with other competition. To share my experience in the same restaurant I used to manage, the general manager always encouraged me to go to other local restaurants and dine. He even offered to pay the bill. All I had to do was to analyze everything from the greeting, staff knowledge, manager’s presence, client’s relation and the overall quality. My report helped him to understand his competition strengths and weaknesses.

14- Hiring wrong person to do marketing:

Many small business owners out of desperation and lack of networking, hire wrong people to do their marketing. As we said earlier, every business has unique offering and services so must focus on unique planning for its marketing strategies.

It is the small business owner’s responsibility to hire a professional firm who can relate to the business’s need and offerings.

A good reputable marketing firm whose focus is to promote books and authors in not a good fit for a small local bistro.

15- Underestimate the value of existing clients:

A good businessperson always knows the value of the existing clients;

The best way of follow-up with the existing clients is to create informative data about them. Many small business owners lack this very important source of information. To avoid this mistake, keep a record of every client’s information. If the information requires certain personal data, keep it in a safe and secure place.

A client whom already has experienced your product and service knows about the quality of it. Always do follow-up calls and do not be afraid to ask how they liked the product or service. Even if the client responses back with dissatisfaction is a perfect opportunity for the business owner to fix the problem.

Gain a new customer is costly. I am gong to explain this by an example:

Nancy enters Joe’s café because of a coupon she found in a local magazine offering 10% discount. She solely relies on a menu attraction, prices, quality of the food and customer service. Joe the owner spent lots of money and time for marketing after analyzing the community needs, price affordability and the targeted niche market.

Joe has three ways to collect emails or phone calls for follow back:

A) placing a note pad in front of the cashier’s desk asking new clients to write email or contact info for special promos.

B) Placing a glass bowl by the cashier’s desk offering the weekly draw of free lunch from dropped business cards.

C) Offering comment cards and asking for contact info.

Joe has three ways to accumulate client’s information and follow-up with them. So everyday he goes through all the information and creates a secure data.

Nancy finds the place charming and the food great but not a good customer service. It is Joe’s responsibility to follow-up and gain back Nancy’s business once again to avoid spending all the money and time all over to attract another new client.”

Existing clients are the perfect way to promote every business. Send special offering, communicate with them and even ask them to share your business with their friends. Respect the boundary between proper communication and spamming.

16- Not offering giveaways and novelty items:

One of the most effective ways to attract clients is to giveaway your product or service for free.

A) Test run: Offer a monthly test run of your product and service and giveaway a free sampler. People love to get samplers. It gives them information about your business and its quality.

B) Propose monthly contest: Proffer a monthly contest and giveaway prizes based on participating in your business. People love contest and it excites them to know they can win something. If it didn’t work, Lottery and Casinos didn’t exist.

C) Give out novelties like mugs, pen, key chain, notepad, calculator, shirts and hats with the business information printed on it.

17-Wrong niche:

As a business owner recognizing correct niche market target is necessary for further marketing planning and budget assignment.

To explain this better lets picture a shoe store that carries high-end fashion shoes for women. The first thing that comes into the mind, high-end fashion niche is only younger generation and teenagers. A good business owner will explore the possibilities to analyze further more into the data from business plan to understand the local community needs.

If selling high-end, then its higher quality and higher prices. A teenager on a student living budget cannot be a direct and only target niche. So the correct niche is a professional and higher income spender who is more interested in quality without considering the price tag.

This example clears how a business owner distinguishes the certain target audience by analyzing the local market data from business plan. With enough knowledge in market research, the business owner avoids wasting the marketing budget on a wrong niche.

18-Not participating in community:

“Every big things has small beginning”

Regardless of the geographical target of any business, whether global or corner store in a small village, it all begins with local community.

Who are the first people you would share news with in your everyday life? Family and friends are the strongest link to marketing and spreading the word. It starts from friends and family and spreads to their friends and family and before you know it, is a snowball effect and cumulative.

The local community is the test run before spending a time and money on a dead-end marketing plan.

19- Do not own an informative and representative website:

Internet plays a great deal of connection in people’s life everyday. Many customers use the Internet to search and review local businesses. No matter what kind of business, it requires an informative and user-friendly website. A good business website is a gateway that welcomes customers to enter and experience the business offering.

Many small business owners making mistake and assume their line of business does not need a website. With daily development of technology, people get more connected via Internet and do their shopping online. Search engines get stronger everyday by developing codes and programs to bring up the exact and precise inquiry.

20- Do not appreciate the value of the Internet:

With a vastly growing competition on the Internet and the increase in demand for business development, simply having a website that offer information is not enough. Popular search engines are only producing websites in their search result, which have better ranking. Many small business owners simply making a big mistake by avoiding the presence on the Internet and ignore the growing highway to success. Every business must have an informative website and optimizes the business on search engines, social media and popular relevant forums. This subject of Internet marketing and its highly effective marketing plans is a lot of subject to cover in this article.

21- Expecting too much in short time:

Do not expect too much in a short time. There is always cause and effect but it requires proper time period to produce best effect. A seed needs time to open the surface and grow to a strong tree. But it requires water and good fertilization. Marketing is the water and fertilization to the business. It takes time for a good marketing plan to spread the roots and make a strong holding ground.

“Rome was not built in a day”

It took generations and much hard work of skilled engineers, planning and proper budgeting to build the mega city of Rome.

Can you hold a roof without building the pillars and the walls?

Marketing is the pillar of the business. Without marketing and planning, business lacks a foundation.

Many business owners place the marketing and development in their last page when the business opens its door to the public. Marketing starts when the business idea takes shape. It begins before the business is even called a business. Avoid making marketing mistake and start your marketing with knowledge and strategy.

Marketing is the heart of every business and keeps the health of the company in balance. But treat the heart right. Eating healthy, exercise and lack of stress are keeping the heart healthy to beat the life into our body. Practicing and implementing the right marketing strategies keep the business in shape. Don’t make mistake if you had a good run. Many small business owners get too excited for this temporary beat of recognition and look at it as everlasting. To keep a good balance in business, marketing and planning should match the flow of the business. Increase your strategies as your business grows and increases.

Marketing is the pillar of every business and is the only foundation to go further, faster. Imagine a boat with no engine crossing the Atlantic. The marketing to a business resembles the engine to a boat. The planning and strategy of the marketing to the business is the safety gear of the boat that keeps it balance and not to tip over.

5 Secrets That Will Thrust Your Small Business Into the Big League

There are 28 million small businesses in the US. The sad reality is that most of them fail within the first few years of operation. The small percentage that survive stay small forever. A select few manage to grow into huge businesses. But why them and not the others? What are the factors that enable unknowns to become household brands? One thing for sure that it takes much more than hard work, luck, and timing. Read on to see if your small business has what it takes to make the leap into the big league?

Systems

Many small business owners’ lives are chaotic due to lack of systems. Systems are hard, but they enable small businesses to scale. Systems are not glorious like sales, marketing, or research and development. Some say that systems are boring, after all, it is a back office function. Systems separate struggling small businesses from those that grow by leaps and bounds. Creating systems can be a daunting task, and for many, the prospect of taking on yet another project is out of the question. For some, it is a catch-22 situation. You may say “How do I carve out extra time from my already hectic schedule.” The correct way to think of systems is that creating them is an investment in your business.

One of the greatest challenges that small business owners face is that the they are perpetual decision makers. The owner is involved in everything from sales, customer service, research and development, bookkeeping, so an and so forth. Creating systems is the first step toward a business where not every decision is dependent on the entrepreneur. Systems allow people to plug in and go. Systems include operating procedures and manuals that can bring a new team member up to speed in no time. It is what takes small out of small business.

Franchise businesses are often more successful than independently operated ones simply because they are built on systems. The franchisee may be paying a premium in upstart costs compared to an independent business, but it makes sense for many because they don’t have to worry about developing systems. Someone already went ahead and created the necessary systems for success. When you buy a franchise you are taking a system that has been proved to work. Does it mean that you have to buy a franchise to succeed? Absolutely not, but you have to think of your own independent business as a franchise. Create procedures for everything. Don’t leave anything to guesswork.

Most small businesses do without systems, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. While you might get away with it in the beginning the lack of systems will create huge bottle necks down the road. The lack of systems will reduce your profits. Why? Because you and your employees will have to reinvent the wheel day in and day out. systems minimize the element of surprise. With systems in place your team is able to deliver consistent service. Businesses with consistently good service will outperform those with fluctuating quality service.

In addition to making your life easier, systems also increase the value of your business. Buyers want to buy businesses that are built on systems. The presence of systems tell buyers that the business doesn’t entirely rely on you. Creating systems help you create a turnkey operation, appealing to buyers. Business systems are assets that enable your company to run without you.

Scalability

Investors love highly scalable companies because they have the potential to multiply revenue with minimal incremental cost. You simply can’t substantially grow a business without cracking the scaling code. Some business are built to scale while others are forever destined for small business status. Unfortunately, many professional service providers are not scalable because they rely on personal output. So, if your goal is to build a big company avoid consulting types of businesses. A software company, on the other hand, is a highly scalable business model. Once the software product has been completed it can be sold millions of times with minimal costs. In other words, their increased revenues cost less to deliver than current revenues. What this means is that a scalable business will be able to increase the operating margin as revenue grows.

A highly scalable business requires small variable costs that the company can control. Variable cost changes with the volume of business. Fixed costs do not vary with sales. For example, for a software company fixed costs include the cost of the office location, computers, and furniture. These cannot be quickly added or liquidated. Salaries on the other hand are a variable cost since workers can be hired and fired relatively fast.

Most consulting businesses like marketing agencies are not scalable because they are unable to substantially increase their revenue without greatly increasing their variable costs. Such businesses are considered poor investments.

To build a scalable business you should start with a scalable idea. Scalable businesses have high margins. They require low support and staff expenses. Scalable businesses allow you to work on your business as opposed to working in your business. If you find yourself constantly working in your business your business is either not scalable or not yet ready to scale.

Truly scalable businesses are highly automated. Automation helps you reduce variable costs such as labor. It is at this point when scaling and systems begin to work together. If you truly want to become a market leader or dominate your industry, scalability is the only way to do it without a miracle.

Board of advisors

If your goal is rapid growth, you must have a board that you can rely on for your big audacious goals. The life of an entrepreneur can be a lonely one. Often you feel like you are all alone with all the decisions you have to make. Your board will share some of the burdens of making key decisions and it will tell the outside world that you are systematic about your business, and that you understand that you need to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Your board will help you with large strategic goals. It can help with your overall business plan, policy issues, financial questions, strategic partnerships, and more.

Your board shouldn’t be utilized to deal with routine tactical challenges. Don’t waste the boards time on daily employee issues or what color the chose for your new office. Rather, let your board help you with strategic advice, or by helping you with making introductions to strategic partners and recruiting talent.

Fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders make excellent board members. Before you build your board you should have a clear understanding of what areas you need help with. Ask yourself what skills do you currently lack that you need to take your business to the next level? Is it marketing, intellectual property, or finance? Whatever it is you need help with should influence the ultimate makeup of your board. You could hire a recruiter, but they are expensive. It is best if you perform the search yourself.

Your board is not a group of your closest friends. It is a group of professionals, each with a respective specialty. One might be an IP attorney while another a retired CEO. You are not looking for a group of yes men. If you build a great board, each member will have more experience than you and each will know much more than you. If you feel like the dumbest person in the room, you are on the right track.

Your board of advisors will not join you for the money, but there are costs involved. It is a good idea to compensate your advisors. At least, you should cover their expenses. Do they need to travel to your board meetings? Are there hotel and other expenses? It is also advisable to pay a per meeting fee that might be a few hundreds or a few thousand dollars. In addition to monetary compensation, you could chose to offer stock as payment.

IP (Intellectual Property)

Most small business owners care most about time and money. Some understand that IP is as good as money in the bank. It is considered one of the most important assets of some of the most valuable companies in the world. Even though IP is an intangible asset, it’s almost impossible to build a hugely successful business without it. If you are going to dominate your industry or at least be one of its key players, IP is a must. You can often read about huge business acquisition deals structured around IP. Often, IP is the reason companies are bought and sold for huge multiples.

Simply put, IP makes your company more competitive. Without IP you end up competing on price and efficiency, a tough way to build your business. When you compete through IP you often set your own price, a luxury most businesses never experience. Since innovation is the main driver in business, developing IP should be a key objective for all companies that want to enter the big league.

If you are an early stage company wanting to attract investors, your IP might be what closes the deal for you. Investors look at IP with regard to the level of income it may generate through its life. Some companies bet their futures on IP. Richard Thoman, the CEO of Xerox, declared that the “management of IP is how value added is going to be created at Xerox.” An excellent example of IP management is IBM; it managed to generate about $1 billion from IP by 1990. IP is the intangible asset that can become your free cash flow.

When IP is properly managed it can prevent your competitors from copying your products or services. You can avoid wasteful investment in R&D. IP is a revenue generating profit machine that makes your company more valuable and competitive, getting you ever so closer to market domination.

Brand

Many small business owners, wrongly believe, that brand building is reserved for giant corporations. But, building your brand should be a key focus from the very early stages of your company’s life. Your brand is another intangible asset you can’t build a market leading company without. It is your brand that may enable your business one day to avoid competing on price only. It is your brand that may one day help you dominate your market. It is through the power of your brand that you will be able to minimize your new customer acquisition costs.

Successful brands are easily recognizable. Virtually all fortune 500 companies have managed to build a strong brand image. Powerful brands instill certain images in consumers from tradition, to quality, to innovation, to any number of thoughts and feelings. As competition increases, so does the importance of building credible brands.

Brands are not born out of thin air, they are strategically developed. Building your brand is no less important than developing your sales strategy or R&D. The process of building your brand is a never ending job. There is no such thing as a finished brand. Finished brands are for businesses that are finished. You can never think of brand building as a project with a beginning and an end.

While advertising is important it is not advertising that creates your brand. Your brand is a reflection on everything that your company does. Your brand is the quality of your product or service. It is also the way you treat your customers, and even your employees. Your brand is shaped by how the world perceives you.

The value of each brand fluctuates. Your company scores big on your latest product and the value of your brand rises. One of your employees publicly ridicules one of your upset customers and your brand suffers. The good news is that for the most part, you are in charge of your brand’s destiny.

Even the worlds greatest brands are not always on an upward trajectory. Strong brands can help your company survive disasters. Recently, the Toyota brand had been plagued by millions of recalls, yet the company managed to come out of it all with an even stronger brand.

It is true that not each small business wants to become an industry leader. But, it’s also true that there are no accidental market leaders. Most small businesses are family owned and operated, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can be happy, fulfilled, and wealthy running a small business. But, if your choice is to grow your business into a true market leader you have to build your business on systems. You have to be able to crack the scaling code, so you can dramatically increase your revenue with minimal expenses. You will need trusted advisors that are smarter and more experienced than you. It will be an uphill battle, or perhaps even impossible without proper IP management. Your brand will soften the blow when you are hit with disasters. Of course, there are other factors such as luck and timing that transform small businesses into huge success stories, but the above five make for a good start.

Top 10 Marketing Books for Small Business Owners

Unlike big business owners, small business owners have the burden of taking care of every single aspect of their business – recruitment, marketing, finance, accounts, managing employees to managing vendors, and so forth. But here we focused only on books that can help you gain marketing knowledge and skills. Here are the top 10 books on marketing which we believe are helpful for new as well as established small business owners.

Book # 1: The New Rules of Marketing & PR – David Meerman Scott

In the new marketing scenario, the methods such as ad copy, etc. do not bring results for your business. With the popularity of smartphones and other devices and proliferation of the Internet, new methods, rules, etc. of marketing have evolved. This book discusses the importance and benefits of using such techniques.

David M Scott provides fresh examples of success from various industries and businesses across the world. He highlights the new tools and techniques that marketers should use to communicate with their buyers directly – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. In short, this book is a guide that offers actionable strategies and insider tips that can be implemented immediately.

Book # 2: Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking – Andy Sernovitz

This book by Andy Sernovitz emphasizes the use of word of mouth marketing for businesses. The book elaborates purpose of blogs, social media, viral emails, etc. – when to use them and how to make them work.

Word of mouth is an effective tool to share information quickly and easily to promote businesses. It is an effective tool that can promote your business via your customers, friends and relations.

Book # 3: Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business – Jay Conrad Levinson

This book furnishes strategies for Internet marketing, tips on using technology like pod-casting and automated marketing, programs for targeting prospects, cultivating repeat, referral business, management lessons in the age of telecommuting and freelance employees, etc. – exclusively for small businesses.

Book # 4: Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide – John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a well-known expert in small business marketing. In the book, he discusses all the proven tools and tactics together in a step-by-step marketing system. This road map helps small business owners in knowing what they need to do to market their businesses.

Book # 5: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business – David Siteman Garland

This book provides strategies for building, marketing and promoting businesses. These techniques are smarter, faster, cheaper and therefore save your time and money. The book is equally helpful for start-ups as well as those who are already in the market for sometime.

Book # 6: Marketing Shortcuts for the Self-Employed: Leverage Resources, Establish Online Credibility and Crush Your Competition – Patrick Schwerdtfeger

This book provides effective practical strategies and tactics – a complete tool kit to use resources sensibly, to establish online credibility. If you apply these strategies, you can get good results for your business within a brief span of time.

Book # 7: Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide – James Stephenson

This book is an essential guide for every business owner. James Stephenson presents in this book 1500 great marketing ideas that are sure to boost your sales revenue, profits and customer loyalty and also to help you stay ahead of your competitors.

Book # 8: Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth – Stephanie Diamond

Marketing for small businesses was difficult in the past. But today, it is not the case. Web marketing enables small businesses to take advantage of marketing opportunities and win new customers.

The book ‘Web Marketing for Small Businesses: 7 Steps to Explosive Business Growth’ focuses on different ways of marketing with a detailed strategy to put them into action. The main content of the book comprises checklists – niche, brand, story, search, content, social media tactics, traditional tactics and results. This book helps you implement web marketing strategies.

Book # 9: Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook – Dave Kerpen

This book is a key to unlock the door to new opportunities. It tells you about how to build brand awareness by engaging customers in social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and other social media networking sites.

Book # 10: 500 Social Media Marketing Tips: Essential Advice, Hints and Strategy for Business: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and More! – Andrew Macarthy

This book is a guide to small businesses. It provides 500 social media marketing tips covering all the web’s biggest players like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and others. These tips will help you build brand awareness in social media networks, attract and engage your customers and ultimately help you increase sales.

7 Things Successful Small Business Owners Do

If you’re stuck wondering how to be a successful small business owner, know this: running a small business often simply means making good use of successful small business ideas. Successful small business owners face many ups and downs throughout their work. They know that small business ideas cannot turn out successful unless they use the proper approach and strategies.

If you want to be one of the few successful small business owners, remember that having a good strategy is crucial. Without the right strategy and a proper approach, you are not likely to achieve your goal.

Some small business owners manage to overcome their everyday challenges, while others seem to give up after a while. So, let’s find out what successful small business owners do differently from the unsuccessful ones. Let’s turn their experience into your success through your small business ideas.

1. MAKE ANNUAL REVISIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET

Every business goes through changes every now and then, including your small business. For this reason, your business plan and budget should be somewhat flexible to bear such changes along with your business goals. Without revising your business plan and budget, you shouldn’t expect your business to flourish and expand.

The flexibility of your business plan will help you avoid and overcome the eventual unpleasant surprises on the market. Also, such flexibility will give you some time to adjust to certain changes you may experience on your way.

Every business experiences both success and failure points each year. In order to detect and estimate these points, you should revise your budget and business plan every year. While revising, you should check if you are still going in the right direction. If not, you may need to make some changes and adjustments to achieve better results in the upcoming period.

Successful small business owners don’t hesitate to reallocate funds, if that is what it takes to achieve success. In order to increase profits, after they conduct a business revision, smart business owners define and implement the necessary changes immediately.

2. UPDATE YOUR OFFER AND ADD VALUE TO IT

People change, as do their needs and habits. As soon as you notice that you aren’t selling as much as you used to sell before, it is time to make changes. If people aren’t purchasing what you currently have to offer, that’s a clear hint that something needs to be done.

A simple price cut may be the first thing that comes to your mind. As much as lower prices may seem more appealing to your customers, they also point to a devaluation of what you offer. Devaluation of your products or services is never a good thing, so try doing just the opposite – add value to your offers.

The best way to update and add value to your products and services is by developing new offers. If possible, try to offer something completely new to your customers. You could offer product bundles, training programs and workshops, and so on.

3. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Most successful small business owners believe in daring to be different. They know their target consumers. Trying to target everyone and anyone as a consumer will get you nowhere fast. Instead of trying to make products for the masses, focus on a clearly targeted community and grow with it. Once you target your consumers, it is easy to understand their needs.

Understanding your consumers is the secret to a successful business. When you know their needs, you can modify your products and services in order to satisfy them. Satisfied consumers will not only become your regulars, but they will also spread the word about what you offer. This may become the best marketing strategy for your business.

Spreading the word about your products or services is called a referral marketing strategy. It’s been proven that most of the faster growing small businesses turn to this kind of marketing rather than relying on traditional advertising.

4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION

Successful small business owners know their competition. They know that keeping an eye on the competitors and understanding their policy and pricing is crucial to the business. It is wise to consider your direct competitors in your area, as well as indirect competitors.

A direct competitor offers the same primary services to the same target group as you, and they are easy to follow on the market. However, an indirect competitor company offers the same or similar products as a segment of a wider product or service offering.

In some cases, the indirect competitor may offer a product that is an applicable substitute for the original product. Successful small business owners know how to position their company against the indirect competitors. They take both types of competing companies seriously and they account for them in their annual business plan.

5. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Even though hiring the right people for your business sounds obvious, it can be a really tough job for small business owners. Also, not hiring the right people could be a huge downfall for a small company. People who don’t share the concept of your business approach and goals are not the type of people you want to engage in your business.

Candidates who don’t have the right temperament, skills, or talent for the job position that you offer can be too pricey for your company. Having the right people in the right job positions can make your company outstanding. Exceptional companies recruit exceptional people.

6. ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY CHANGES

Technology changes on a regular basis nowadays. Successful business owners are very well aware of that, so they change accordingly. Doing things the way they were done years ago will not provide the same success nowadays.

Accepting technological improvements can help your company become more effective and efficient. Keep yourself informed about the latest in new technology, and the improved solutions it brings. Choose the most appropriate ones for your business and adopt them. Your customers will be grateful and you’ll experience great benefits.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you believe your intuition has been serving you well so far, listen to your inner voice carefully. Your instincts can lead you a long way. If you still feel strongly about something, regardless of the lack of facts or data – act on it. What seems right for other businesses doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Relying on intuition is often the first step out of your comfort zone, and the first step towards becoming a leading company on the market. While you watch your business grow and spread, remember that having faith in yourself and the business you are running is crucial. Being aware of your inner voice can lead you to making business decisions with more confidence and a greater success rate.

Torchlite is evolving the way businesses go to market. By seamlessly connecting digital marketing experts and business owners through our application, we make building effective digital marketing campaigns easy – driving leads, online traffic, customers and revenue. Let’s get ignited.

Best Small Business Tips and Ideas

Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life. We are living in a world wherever everyone wants to make extra money and add to his income. Most people have achieved this by acquiring great business ideas. When one starts up a company, he must be ready to meet competition. It is important to note that you would not need to become rich or popular to succeed in business but have to think smartly. But there are a lot of moving parts and many different elements to consider.

10 basic tips essential to start a business successfully.

Tip 1: Get inspired and Love your idea

Every business begins with an idea you may have imagined of opening your own business for years, or motivation may have hit you suddenly. Nevertheless of the source, the first step of starting your own business is coming up with a business idea. And as important as your idea, you must in love with the idea.

Tip 2: Do Your Research / learn everything about the business

You’ve recognized your big idea, now it’s time to balance it with the reality. Are you truly ready to start a business? Answer the questions below and see what you need to prepare yourself for business. For a small business succeed it must fulfill a need, solve a problem or offer something the market wants.

You can identify this need in many ways by doing research, focus groups, and even trial and error.

As you search the market, some of the questions can be:

• Is there a need for your anticipated services or products?
• Who needs it? (Target Costumers)
• Are there other companies offering similar services or products right now?
• How is the competition?
• Can or how will your business fit into the market?

Tip 3: Make a Business Plan

You need a business plan in order to make your business idea a reality. If you expect to seek monetary support from an investor or financial organization, a formal written business plan is a must.

Even if you don’t need monetary support, a simple business plan can give you precision about what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to do it.

In overall, your business plan should summary your business goals and the inspiration behind them, as well as your plan for realization of your goals in terms of marketing and funding.

Tip 4: Planning Finances

Opening a small business doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, but it will involve some investment.

There are a number of methods you can fund your small business:

• With Small business grants
• By Financing
• With Small business loans
• Or Angel investors

You can also attempt to get your business off the ground by bootstrapping, using as little capital as necessary to start your business.

Tip 5: Business Structure

Your small business can be an individual ownership, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. The business structure you might choose will impact in many factors from your business name, to liability, and how you file your taxes.

You can choose an initial business structure, and with time re-evaluate and change your structure as your business grows and needs to be changed.

Tip 6: The Business Name

The name you choose plays a role in almost every aspect of your business, so you want it to be a good one. Make sure you think through all of the possible consequences as you explore your options and select your business name.

Once you have selected a name, there is the need to check if it’s trademarked, currently in use and if stills free you will need to register it. A individual proprietor must register their business name with either their state or county clerk. Corporations, LLC, or limited corporations usually register their business name when the creation paperwork is filed.

These days you need to have a website, so please don’t forget to register your domain name once you have selected your business name. The best domains and more valuable online are the ones ending with .com.

Tip 7: Licenses and Permits

There are a range of small business licenses and permits that may apply to your situation, depending on the type of business you are starting and where you are placed. You will need to inquiry what licenses and permits apply to your business during the initial process.

Tip 8: The Business Location

Setting up your place to work is essential for the operation of your business, whether you will have a home office, a shared or private office space, or a retail location. You will need to reflect about your place, equipment, and overall setup, and make sure your business place works for the kind of business you will be doing.

Tip 9: Accounting System

One of the most essential systems for a small business is an accounting system. Your accounting system is essential in order to build and manage your budget, set your charges, conduct business with others, and file your taxes. You can set up your accounting system by your own, or hire an accountant to take away some of the work.

Tip 10: Promote Your Small Business

As soon your business is up and running, you need to start attracting customers. You’ll want to initiate with the essentials by writing a single selling offer and building a marketing plan. Explore as many small business marketing ideas as you can so you to choose how to promote your business most successfully. Completed these business start-up actions, you will have all of the most important small business bases protected, and be prepared for small business success.

15 Business Ideas to Generate Extra Income

If you want or need to start a side job because you still need to wait a little bit longer to start your own business, here are 15 suggestions for you.

1. Make money Blogging

If you enjoy writing, find a theme you’re passionate about and start a blog dedicated to covering that theme and anything else interesting you enjoy to talk about. All you need is a laptop, some time, and inspiration to consistently write. It can start as a hobby and turn into a business over time. Creating a blog is free, but if you want to look professional it can cost less than $ 12 per month.

2. Buying or selling on eBay

Thanks to internet there are more opportunities to make money than ever to buy and resell products for extra money. There are lots of people buy at a discount and resell them on eBay for profit.

3. Freelance writing

If you’re great with words, you might be capable to find some work as an online freelancer. A variety of publications need online content in the form of product, stories, service descriptions, and reports, and if you have the talent and ability, you could easily be the one to create them. Luckily, all you need is a computer and Internet connection to get started. You can start here freelancer.com

4. Social media expert

Now a day almost everyone uses Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but did you know that many companies are willing to compensate people to support them managing their social media accounts and sometimes you can do it part-time from home. If this appeals you, to find social media jobs you can start by writing companies with a social media presence and visiting sites like Elance.com for opportunities.

5. Proofreading and editing

Do you have strong English skills and outstanding grammar? You may have chances to work as a proof-reader from home. Marketing for this can be hard; seek out those who might actually be able to use your services and advertise directly to them.

6. Virtual assistant

Many companies and individual professionals like having someone who can check and answer their email, organize task lists for them, someone who can update their calendars, and perform other administrative tasks, with minimal communication. The best of being a virtual assistant is that you can offer this service from home with a good Internet connection.

7. Website design

If you know a little bit about web design you can approach small businesses in your community, as they could use a very basic web presence to tell others about their business. These businesses usually don’t have a large budget for websites and create a great yet simple website is for you, get a bunch of clients from your local community, create sites for them, and maintains them for a small fee. You can easily get enough businesses to have a nice side business of your own with a low investment.

8. Affiliate marketing

Certain types of online businesses will pay you to promote their products and encourage sales. If you’re interested in learning more, check out affiliate marketing programs such as Click-bank, Commission Junction, and these websites are trustworthy and you can earn money by posting their products in your blog, website or Facebook. The secret of online business is all knowing targeting the right public and marketing efficiently. It can be overwhelming with all the information available online as more than 50% of the information is just a waste of time.

9. Become a business or life coach

If you are a good speaker and passionate about the business world and able to inspire and encourage others in a unique way, you could marketing your services as a business or even a life coach. Take your passion and expertise to the next level giving advice and suggest actionable steps people can take to progress their professional and private lives.

10. Start a resume writing service

If you’re excellent at writing remarkable resumes that in the end result in people getting the job, contemplate advertising those services. Most of your work will spin around writing, editing, designing, and proofreading, so you will only need few supplies outside of your computer and basic software to get started.

11. App Developer

Web app development is the creation of application programs that reside on remote servers and are delivered to the user’s device over the Internet. Now a day you can do apps with software’s you don’t really need to be a weirdo to do it, you can be an app developer for Facebook for instance and of course you can do it part-time and home based.

12. Business Consultant

If you are high organized and skilled being a good problem solver this job is for you. Companies bring Business Consultant to identify their problems, provide solutions and optimize companies. The only investments are your skills.

13. Data Entry Service

Many companies and online businesses require some type of manual information tracking, creating a vast amount of data entry work. Although there are many work-at-home scams related with data entry work, there are a lot of genuine chances available for genuine data entry businesses. If you are an excellent typist with an eye for detail, a data entry business is a great idea for you.

14. Freelance Writer

If you have the skill to write and inform people in a certain area, you can write small books or guides and sell them online, the biggest books platform is Amazon.com, where you can display your books for free and when they are sold, you will receive a percentage from the selling. Payments are made every month depending on your sales. Investment is only your time to write and imagination.

15. Internet Researcher

The Internet provides a vast amount of information. If you can quickly and efficiently navigate through that wealth of information, and essentially find a needle in a haystack, you can create a very successful business as an Internet researcher. Search for this kind of job online or about a company which is looking for this of service.

I give you only a glimpse what you could do, and these are just a few ideas, but many ideas were left behind.

First of all I advise you to think what you like to do as a hobby or in your free time, why don’t you make profit from what you are doing already?

You have the world as your disposal, but for a business to work out the first thing from all things is, it doesn’t matter what you intent to do, but you have to love it. If you love what you do it doesn’t feel like a job, you will be doing it with joy and this way you will be successful.

There are some side business opportunities that have grown more common in the past few years. And thanks to internet you have much more opportunities, ideas and help to develop your business.

Small Business – When Government Stacks the Deck Against You

We expect a fair degree of corruption, arrogance and drooling self-interest from our elected officials. After all, in the last 206 years, we have fallen a great distance from the days of the “virtuous republic” that existed-or was thought to exist-in that first decade after the Revolution. Yes, we expect it, but I would have more respect for the operatives, the party-men and the politicos themselves if they could be just a little intelligent about it. The current issue with the Bush Administration, Congress, the SBA and the awarding of a great deal of money earmarked for small business, is a case in point.

When Big Business Seems Small

It is illegal, a felony that comes with fines and a prison term, to try to pass your big business off as a small business to get one of the 23% of Federal contracts reserved for small businesses. Yet, it happens all the time. According to the American Small Business League, a non-partisan watchdog group, some $60 billion in Federal contracts go to major corporations each year. How it happens brings us to the question of how you decide that a business is truly small.

Counting Heads

What is a small business? How do you measure it? Is it revenue? Sales? Staff size? Any one of these could be a viable measure, but for the most part the matter is decided with staff size. Depending on the industry, you can have a maximum of 1,500 employees and still be considered a small business! (Federal Regulations Title 13, Part 121, Section 201)

These larger “small businesses,” with 1,000 to 1,500 employees, deal in oil, aerospace, rail transportation, textiles, and chemical and rubber products. Wholesalers, regardless of their products, are capped at 100; information technology value-added resellers are capped at 150 (a very recent change) while the rest are capped at either 500 or 750. In 2005 (the most recent data available), there were 5,966,069 firms in the U.S. with 500 or fewer employees and they employed 58,644,585 people out of a total employment of 116,373,003. That is 50.3% of the working population working in what could easily be described as legitimately small businesses. If you add up the firms with larger numbers of employees, you find that there are 11,546 of them and that they employ 9,475,180 people, 8.14% of the workforce.

Call me crazy, but a firm with 1,000 employees doesn’t seem to be very small to me! It may be small when compared to the giants in its industry, but it is a giant compared with the vast majority of small businesses. In 2004, there was an effort to bring the number of employees down from 500 to 100 for a business to be classified as small. In spite of a great deal of support for the measure-including U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who said: “By working to change the definition of a small business for government contracts from 500 to 100 employees, federal contracts specifically designed to ensure the success of American small business would go where they belong – to support Americans, not big companies dressed in sheep’s clothing.”-the effort was killed by the SBA itself. That, however, is only the beginning. Another has to do with how small businesses are certified.

Finding a Certified Small Business

The question of how many employees a small business can have is complicated even further when we see that the government has been rather lax in enforcing the contract award rules for small business. In fact, in 2005, some $49 billion in Federal contracts that were set aside for small business were actually awarded to the 13 largest government contractors. This lax enforcement has led to cases where the small business in question is actually a subsidiary of a much larger company, where businesses have outgrown their small business status, where big business misrepresents itself as a small business and where government procurement offices, such as with the military, simply disregard the rules and do business with who they like.

The Small Business Front

Two of the most prevalent ways that large companies can maintain a small business front are through the legal loopholes that allow a small business to retain its status throughout the life of its original contract-and bid on new business as a small business-no matter how large it grows and even after it is bought out by a large company.

In either case, what the company in question is doing is, in fact, legal. Their actions are also limited by the fact that the loophole is based on the length of the small business’ initial contract. For example, if a small business wins a 10-year contract to provide computer hardware, it maintains its small business status for the full 10 years of the contract regardless of how large it grows or if some huge conglomerate buys it. This has been an issue for some time. Consider the following:

According to a 2006 report on the U.S. Government Accountability Office: Commerce Information Technology Solutions (COMMITS) Next Generation Governmentwide Acquisition Contract, “We found that many of the 55 COMMITS NexGen contractors have grown significantly or have been acquired by larger businesses and may no longer meet small business size standards. We also found that a significant portion of the task orders intended for the smallest contractors were issued to larger, incumbent contractors.”

Incumbent contractors tend to get the lion’s share of the government’s business. A 2004 SBA Office of Advocacy: Eagle Eye Publishers’ Report said that: “Of the top 1,000 small business contractors in FY 2002, Eagle Eye Publishers’ analysis found 44 parent companies it identified as either large firms or ‘other’. Contracts to these two groups taken together had a total value of $2 billion.” The report continued, saying that: “The Department of Defense and the General Services Administration accounted for 79 percent of the contract awards found to have gone to large businesses.” One of the conclusions drawn from the report was: “As a result of this lack of transparency, many awards that should be reserved for small firms go to large firms unchallenged.”

Disregarding the Rules

Rules can be broken either directly, by a willful disregard on the part of those the rules were intended to regulate, such as a company that purposefully misidentifies itself as a small business in order to get a contract; or they can be broken indirectly by a lack of oversight and enforcement that creates an atmosphere in which the rules can be ignored. One of the problems sited against the SBA is oversight. “SBA did not review the majority of reported bundled contracts that we identified, though procuring activities must provide, and SBA must review proposed bundled acquisitions. As a result, 192 contracts identified by procuring agencies as bundled were awarded without SBA’s review. If all of these are actually bundled contracts, a minimum of $384 million would be potentially lost to eligible small businesses, based on minimum dollar reporting requirements of $2 million.” (SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of the Contract Bundling Process, May 2005) And consider this from the SBA Office of Inspector General: Audit of Monitoring Compliance with 8(a) Business Development Contract Performance, March 2006:

“Though SBA delegated 8(a) BD contract execution authority to 26 procuring agencies, SBA did not ensure that procuring agencies monitored whether companies complied with 8(a) BD regulations when completing 8(a) BD contracts . . . SBA has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that companies comply with 8(a) BD regulations”

The SBA is the final oversight authority for these contract awards and yet through their lack of enforcement efforts, it is easy for large businesses to slip through. Why is this? There are two likely reasons. The first is that the Bush Administration, when it came into office, cut funding for the SBA. At the end of the Clinton Administration, the budget for the SBA was about $1.1 billion. By 2006 it was down to $456.5 million. Funding has increased since the 2006 low; for 2009, that number has increased to $657 million, mostly due to funding for disaster relief loans; but the agency has nowhere near the budget it used to have. Generally speaking, if you cut funds to an agency, certain things start to slip and that is not a message that the SBA, or the Bush Administration for that matter, want going public.

However, it already has.

An audit by the American Small Business League (ASBL) and two independent experts showed that even while the SBA was saying that it is a “myth that large companies, including large, multi-national corporations are taking away federal contracts specifically intended for small businesses,” it was discovered that the Bush Administration had in fact included billions of dollars in awards to Fortune 500 corporations and other large businesses in the United States and Europe in its small business contracting statistics. Also, the Bush Administration failed to comply with the congressionally mandated 23% small business contracting goal by including such corporate giants as:

  • Dyncorp
  • Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Government Technology Services Inc (GTSI),
  • Bechtel
  • Lockheed Martin
  • General Dynamics
  • General Electric
  • Northstar Aerospace
  • Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.
  • Raytheon.
  • British Aerospace Engineering Systems
  • Buhrmann NV (Dutch)
  • Thales (French)

More than that, ASBL’s research also found that the government was forced to systematically increase the volume of contracts awarded to small businesses in order to balance out those that were going to inappropriately large companies. In addition, awards to legitimate small businesses were systematically inflated to equalize the reduction of small business contract dollars awarded to Fortune 500 corporations. The ASBL found that according to SBA numbers, Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $887.5 million during 2005. However, the government’s own figures indicate that Circle B Enterprises Inc. received $287.5 million during 2005, which represents a discrepancy of $600 million. The ASBL audit found several other instances where the contracting numbers of legitimate small businesses were also significantly inflated.

The Bottom Line

The government decided to play fast and loose with small business contract money and they got caught siphoning it off to some of the largest companies on Earth. There are those that will only see the damage that this will do to McCain in the fall, yet another Bush Administration failure/debacle/betrayal-whatever you like best. That, however, is not the point. The point is why was the SBA hamstrung and placed in the position it has been in by the Bush Administration? More than that, why has this abuse been allowed to go on for so long? Call me a political cynic-I am from Chicago so I come by it honestly-but the only thing that makes sense to me is that government officials are paying back the people with deep pockets who helped to get them elected and they are doing it at the expense of, well, YOU. True, paybacks are a time-honored political tradition, but by stealing the money from small business, the U.S. Government as a whole turned its back on the overwhelming number of U.S. employers and employees in favor of a handful of major corporations. I urge you, as a small business owner; and you as an employee of a small business, to write your senators and congressmen, and to write to each of the presidential candidates, McCain and Obama, and their respective party chairmen-Republican and Democrat alike, and tell them that you want this to stop. Remember, small business contract set-asides are for YOU, not major corporations. It is time to remind Washington of that.

Reality Vs Myths – SBA Changes Small Business Reporting Standards

The SBA recently made some changes to how small businesses can compete in the federal marketplace, leading to some false beliefs. An examination which clears up some of the false beliefs about the change in Small Business Association guidelines and how it affects businesses trying to do work with the government.

Myth: Small Businesses can’t compete in the federal marketplace because large companies are getting contracts specifically written for smaller businesses.

Reality: Though it is true this has happened in the past, large businesses taking contracts set aside for smaller businesses is not a real factor anymore in the federal contracting arena. A minuscule percentage of contracts get awarded to companies whose size is later challenged – the companies are almost universally on the edge of what is defined as a ‘small business’ rather than the large multi-national corporations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has adopted regulations which keep such contracts from being considered as small business contracts, helping to make the available figures and statistics more accurately reflect reality.

Myth: Large and multinational corporations are listed in the GSA’s database with small business contracts because they were awarded them.

Reality: There are two explanations for this. The first is that size status is determined at the time a contract is awarded, and is retained for the duration of the contract. In recent times, agencies have increasingly been awarding long-term contracts which can extend for as much as twenty years. During that period it is quite possible that these businesses become larger and no longer fit the small business size standard for their commodities. Small businesses are becoming large businesses during the period of their contracts, making size reporting difficult to implement effectively. Secondly, many large companies have a strategy of purchasing small businesses with long-term contracts, meaning that a contract awarded to a small business may then become owned as a subsidiary of a large business. Until recently, agencies were allowed to count those contracts toward their small business goals despite this fact.

Myth: Nothing has been done to stop such misrepresentation of small business awards, and the SBA has not made it more difficult for larger businesses to attain long-term small business contracts and misrepresent themselves.

Reality: Many steps have been taken to resolve this issue. The SBA implemented a ruling in June that requires companies, large or small, to recertify their size status at the end of the initial contract term (generally five years) and again at every exercising of a contract term extension option, usually between one and five years. Additionally, whenever a small business is bought out by or merges with another business (of any size), it must recertify its size status for all of its contracts, regardless of where they are in the term. Thus, from now on all contracts will be reported as held by large companies if the business holding them has grown past small business size standards or has been acquired by a large company. The SBA has also taken other steps, including increasing its staff working on finding small business contracting opportunities, requiring federal agencies to review any issues or discrepancies with their reported contracting statistics, and starting a “Small Business Procurement Scorecard,” which will monitor and score agencies on their performance on a variety of small business goals.

Myth: This five year recertification allows agencies to report the tens of billions of dollars set aside for small businesses for large businesses until 2012.

Reality: The new SBA policy explicitly prohibits this. It forbids small businesses that merge or are acquired by large businesses from claiming small size status for all future work, even on existing contracts. This means that as soon as a business is no longer legally considered ‘small,’ all of the dollars used must be reported according to the appropriate size standard. It also limits the time that a small business that expands beyond small standards can report as small to no more than five years – and most to within one year. All of the new SBA policies apply to all existing and future contracts of any term length, so that whenever any event that triggers a recertification need occurs – merger, acquisition, end of a contract term, or exercise of a contract option – the business must recertify itself to whatever size standard is appropriate at that time.

Myth: Small business can be forced to compete alongside large businesses because of the new recertification policies.

Reality: A contract that is set aside for small businesses MUST be given to a business that is certifiable as small at the time of bid submission. These new policies actually protect small business owners from having to compete with larger businesses, because there is now no way for them to acquire small businesses in order to certify small business status.

Myth: There is no enforcement and there are no penalties, fines, or consequences for large businesses that get small business contracts.

Reality: If the SBA determines that a businesses has misrepresented itself about the size standard, they have the right to disqualify a bid and deny the contract. If a business is found to have intentionally misrepresented itself regarding size status in order to get a contract, under Section 16(d) of the Small Business Act the owners are subject to fines and imprisonment. Companies that lost out on the bid may challenge the size of the winning companies and also file civil suits under the False Claims Act. Additionally, there is proposed legislation that would delay awarding of any contracts that have size standards attached over a certain dollar amount until the size status of the winning bidder is determined and verified by the SBA.

Myth: The SBA will not release information on small businesses awarded government contracts.

Reality: Information and data relating to federal contract awards is readily available to the public through the Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation. Any person – small business owner or otherwise – may request information or reports through the database operator, the General Services Administration (GSA), if they have difficult finding data or navigating the site.

Myth: The recertification procedures will change the size standards for small businesses and how they are classified as ‘small,’ much like the 2004 proposal.

Reality: This is simply not the case. Small businesses are still determined to be so by the same regulations. The rules regarding size standards have not changed and are still determined by industry – some are based around maximum number of employees, some are on revenues in recent years, and some are a combination of the two. The 2004 proposal, which did not go into effect, was a broad restructuring agenda that would have made all size standards determined by the number of employees.

Myth: More than a dozen federal investigations in the last six years have reported finding that billions of dollars were diverted from small businesses to Fortune 1000 companies and their subsidiaries across the country.

Reality: There reports almost universally raised issues regarding the accurate reporting of contract dollars that were originally awarded to small businesses – just the sort of thing the new rules were put into place to prevent. This meant that small businesses were the original winners of the contracts, but then were bought up by larger companies. Although there are a very few occasions where large businesses won federal contracts that had been set aside for small businesses, generally this was because of a misunderstanding or of a small business not realizing it had grown beyond the size standard. None of the studies suggested that large, multinational corporations competed against small businesses for contracts. The dollars went to the larger companies because the business that originally won the contract was small. The new rules and guidelines that have been put into effect as of June 30, 2007 should prevent any further such problems of misreporting.

How to Get Financing For Your Small Business

In today’s hostile economic environment, access to capital is the primary differentiating factor between those businesses which have been able to expand and gain market share versus those that have experienced enormous drops in revenue. The reason many small businesses have seen their sales and cash flow drop dramatically, many to the point of closing their doors, while many large U.S. corporations have managed to increase sales, open new retail operations, and grow earnings per share is that a small business almost always relies exclusively on traditional commercial bank financing, such as SBA loans and unsecured lines of credit, while large publicly traded corporations have access to the public markets, such as the stock market or bond market, for access to capital.

Prior to the onset of the financial crises of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession, many of the largest U.S. commercial banks were engaging in an easy money policy and openly lending to small businesses, whose owners had good credit scores and some industry experience. Many of these business loans consisted of unsecured commercial lines of credit and installment loans that required no collateral. These loans were almost always exclusively backed by a personal guaranty from the business owner. This is why good personal credit was all that was required to virtually guarantee a business loan approval.

During this period, thousands of small business owners used these business loans and lines of credit to access the capital they needed to fund working capital needs that included payroll expenses, equipment purchases, maintenance, repairs, marketing, tax obligations, and expansion opportunities. Easy access to these capital resources allowed many small businesses to flourish and to manage cash flow needs as they arose. Yet, many business owners grew overly optimistic and many made aggressive growth forecasts and took on increasingly risky bets.

As a result, many ambitious business owners began to expand their business operations and borrowed heavily from small business loans and lines of credit, with the anticipation of being able to pay back these heavy debt loads through future growth and increased profits. As long as banks maintained this ‘easy money’ policy, asset values continued to rise, consumers continued to spend, and business owners continued to expand through the use of increased leverage. But, eventually, this party, would come to an abrupt ending.

When the financial crisis of 2008 began with the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and most renowned banking institutions on Wall Street, a financial panic and contagion spread throughout the credit markets. The ensuing freeze of the credit markets caused the gears of the U.S. financial system to come to a grinding halt. Banks stopped lending overnight and the sudden lack of easy money which had caused asset values, especially home prices, to increase in recent years, now cause those very same asset values to plummet. As asset values imploded, commercial bank balance sheets deteriorated and stock prices collapsed. The days of easy money had ended. The party was officially over.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Great Recession that followed created a vacuum in the capital markets. The very same commercial banks that had freely and easily lent money to small businesses and small business owners, now suffered from a lack of capital on their balance sheets – one that threatened their very own existence. Almost overnight, many commercial banks closed off further access to business lines of credit and called due the outstanding balances on business loans. Small businesses, which relied on the working capital from these business lines of credit, could no longer meet their cash flow needs and debt obligations. Unable to cope with a sudden and dramatic drop in sales and revenue, many small businesses failed.

Since many of these same small businesses were responsible for having created millions of jobs, every time one of these enterprises failed the unemployment rate increased. As the financial crisis deepened, commercial banks went into a tailspin that eventually threatened the collapse of the entire financial system. Although Congress and Federal Reserve Bank led a tax payer funded bailout of the entire banking system, the damage had been done. Hundreds of billions of dollars were injected into the banking system to prop up the balance sheets of what were effectively defunct institutions. Yet, during this process, no provision was ever made that required these banks to loan money out to consumers or private businesses.

Instead of using a portion of these taxpayer funds to support small businesses and avert unnecessary business failures and increased unemployment, commercial banks chose to continue to deny access to capital to thousands of small businesses and small business owners. Even after receiving a historic taxpayer funded bailout, the commercial banks embraced an ‘every man for himself’ attitude and continue to cut off access to business lines of credit and commercial loans, regardless of the credit history or timely payments on such lines and loans. Small business bankruptcies skyrocketed and high unemployment persisted.

During this same period, when small businesses were being choked into non-existence, as a result of the lack of capital which was created by commercial banks, large publicly-traded corporations managed to survive and even grow their businesses. They were mainly able to do so by issuing debt, through the bond markets, or raising equity, by issuing shares through the equity markets. While large public companies were raising hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital, thousands of small businesses were being put under by banks that closed off existing commercial lines of credit and refused to issue new small business loans.

Even now, in mid 2012, more than four years since the onset of the financial crisis, the vast majority of small businesses have no means of access to capital. Commercial banks continue to refuse to lend on an unsecured basis to almost all small businesses. To even have a minute chance of being approved for a small business loan or business line of credit, a small business must possess tangible collateral that a bank could easily sell for an amount equal to the value of the business loan or line of credit. Any small business without collateral has virtually no chance at attaining a loan approval, even through the SBA, without significant collateral such as equipment or inventory.

When a small business cannot demonstrate collateral to provide security for the small business loan, the commercial bank will ask for the small business owner to secure the loan with his or her own personal assets or equity, such as equity in a house or cash in a checking, savings, or retirement account, such as a 401k or IRA. This latter situation places the personal assets of the owner at risk in the event of a small business failure. Additionally, virtually all small business loans will require the business owner to have excellent personal credit and FICO scores, as well as require a personal guaranty. Finally, multiple years of financial statements, including tax returns for the business, demonstrated sustained profitability will be required in just about every small business loan application.

A failure or lack of ability to provide any of these stringent requirements will often result in an immediate denial in the application for almost all small business loans or commercial lines of credit. In many instances, denials for business loans are being issued to applicants which have provided each of these requirements. Therefore, being able to qualify with good personal credit, collateral, and strong financial statements and tax returns still does not guarantee approval of a business loan request in the post financial crisis economic climate. Access to capital for small businesses and small business owners is more difficult than ever.

As a result of this persistent capital vacuum, small businesses and small business owners have begun to seek out alternative sources of business capital and business loans. Many small business owners seeking cash flow for existing business operations or funds to finance expansion have discovered alternative business financing through the use of merchant credit card cash advance loans and small business installment loans offered by private investors. These merchant cash advance loans offer significant advantages to small businesses and small business owners when compared to traditional commercial bank loans.

Merchant cash advance loans, sometimes referred to as factoring loans, are based on the amount of average credit card volume a merchant or retail outlet, processes over a three to six month period. Any merchant or retail operator that accepts credit cards as payment from customers, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover, is virtually guaranteed an approval for a merchant credit card advance. The total amount of cash advance that a merchant qualifies for is determined by this three to six month average and the funds are generally deposited in the business checking account of the small business within a seven to ten day period from the time of approval.

A set repayment amount is fixed and the repayment of the cash advance plus interest is predetermined at the time the advance is approved by the lender. For instance, if a merchant or retailer processes approximately $1,000 per day in credit cards from its customers, the monthly average of total credit cards processed equals $30,000. If the merchant qualifies for $30,000 for a cash advance and the factoring rate is 1.20, the total that would need to be repaid is $30,000 – plus 20% of $30,000 which equals $6,000 – for a total repayment amount of $36,000. Therefore, the merchant would receive a lump sum of $30,000 cash, deposited in the business checking account, and a total of $36,000 would need to be repaid.

The repayment is made by automatically deducting a pre-determined amount of each of the merchant’s daily future credit card sales – usually at a rate of 20% of total daily credit cards processed. Thus, the merchant does not have to write checks or send payments. The fixed percent is simply deducted from future credit sales until the total sum due of $36,000 is paid off. The advantage to this type of financing versus a commercial bank loan is that a merchant cash advance is not reported on the personal credit report of the business owner. This effectively separates the personal financial affairs of the small business owner from the financial affairs of the small business entity.

A second advantage to a merchant credit card cash advance is that an approval does not require a personal guaranty from the business owner. If the business is unable to repay the merchant cash advance loan in full, the business owner is not held personally responsible and cannot be forced to post personal collateral as security for the merchant advance. The owner removes the financial consequences that often accompany a commercial bank business loan that requires a personal guaranty and often forces business owners into personal bankruptcy in the even that their business venture fails and cannot repay the outstanding loan balance.

A third, and distinct advantage, is that a merchant credit card cash advance loan does not require any collateral as additional security for the loan. The future credit card receivables are the security for the cash advance repayment, thus no additional collateral requirements exist. Since the majority of small businesses do not have physical equipment or inventory that can be posted as collateral for a traditional bank loan, this type of financing is a phenomenal alternative for thousands of retail businesses, merchants, sole proprietorships, and online stores seeking access to capital. Such businesses would be denied automatically for a traditional business loan simply because of the lack of collateral to serve as added security for the bank or lender.

Finally, a merchant credit card advance loan approval does not depend upon the strong or perfect personal credit of the business owner. In fact, the business owner’s personal credit can be quite poor and have a low FICO score, and this will not disqualify the business from being approved for the cash advance. The business owner’s personal credit is usually checked only for the purpose of helping to determine that factoring rate at which the total loan repayment will be made. However, even a business owner with a recently discharged personal bankruptcy can qualify for a merchant credit card cash advance loan.

Since the cash funds being lent on merchant credit card advances is provided by a network of private investors, these lenders are not regulated or affected by the new capital requirements that have placed a constraint on the commercial banking industry. The merchant cash advance approvals are determined by internal underwriting guidelines developed by the private lenders in the network. Each loan application is reviewed and processed on a case-by-case basis and approvals are issued within 24 to 48 hours from receipt of a complete application, including the previous three to six months of merchant credit statements.

The merchant credit card advance industry is growing at a pace that is exponential as it fills a void once occupied by commercial banks. Merchant advance loans are the industry of the future in small business lending and private lenders and business owners alike are flocking to this still virtually unknown market.

Difference Between Business Success and Failure

A business needs a great business plan, but it doesn’t give management enough information to have a successful, profitable business. You dramatically increase your chance of success with a game plan. According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey, over half of the fastest growing firms not only have business plans, but also have separate game plans to keep them focused on what must be done day to day.

A business plan gets you in the game. A game plan keeps you in the game. To use the sports analogy, it’s easy to see how you are going to win the game in from the locker room. Most businesses don’t have a working plan that takes into account what actually happens on the field once play starts.

A business plan is a sales brochure and a game plan is an instruction manual. You send a business plan to potential investors and others to excite them about the business. A business plan is about strategy. You create a business plan at a management meeting. A game plan is about tactics and is created by and for the people on the front lines. A game plan talks openly about the good, the bad, and the ugly in the business and is used by people in the business to make decisions every day. It talks about what to do in a crisis.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

The CEO takes a look at his balance sheet and decides that his company has too much of its cash tied up in inventory, so he gets his managers together and creates a new corporate objective for the year – to reduce inventory by 25%. If they do that they will all be entitled to a bonus. The managers aren’t stupid – they know the only way to reduce inventory is to sell what they can and not replace it. So they put on a special promotion for their hottest selling items, they reduce the inventory of those to almost nothing, and they get their bonus. But what has really happened here. The CEO’s company is now left with the inventory of the items that weren’t selling, and they don’t have adequate inventory of their best selling items. The CEO didn’t really lead, the employees cared more about their bonuses than doing what was right for the company, and there wasn’t a plan of action that was tied into a meaningful company objective.

A game plan focuses on these things: creating big goals that matter, giving individual employees responsibility to carry out their portion of those goals, creating a budget and a reward system that supports the goals, and tools to allow employees to measure their own progress.

Steps in the Game Plan Process

The game plan requires a series of steps, beginning with the CEO getting in touch with his or her desires for the business. Then, the management team must delve into what is real for the business today – understanding the business model (how the company makes money), having a handle on what is happening in the market, and finally, knowing what is happening in the company culture. With all this background work done, the actual creation of the game plan begins. At best, it is a facilitated process of discussions matching what is real today with what is possible tomorrow, in the long run and in the short run.

A game plan only looks out a year at most, but within the context of a much longer period of time. The company might decide where they want to be in five years – the game plan is just the next series of steps toward that longer-term goal. There is no point in setting objectives for which there aren’t adequate resources, so objectives and budget are discussed in tandem. Another challenge of the game planning process is to define success for each objective and decide how it will be measured.

This is a time for healthy argument as sales wants more resources to increase revenue, product development wants more of the objectives to be toward R&D for the company’s future, and the operations manager wants more staff to improve quality. This is also the time for managers to consider the implications for all the decisions. And it is the time for the CEO to create a connection between the objectives and each of the managers so that there is personal commitment to the success of the company. If managers are not committed, they will never be able to expect commitment from other employees.

Turning Objectives Into Actions

When the company objectives and budget are ironed out, about half the work is done. A second series of steps takes the objectives set at a corporate level, and creates specific action items for each employee that support the department and then company objectives. Just as the CEO and the managers hashed out the process of give and take between what is today and where they would like to be tomorrow, each manager must go through the same process with the departments’ employees. Each employee must have a series of actions, but most importantly, each employee should know where they stand at any time they wish to check.

For instance, if the objectives for a customer service employee are to keep call length to an average of 2 minutes, have sales of an average of $50 per customer who calls, and to return all calls within 24 hours, then you want that employee to be able to find the measurements for those objectives as often as he or she wishes. The goal is for the employee to have access to just as much information about his or her performance as the manager. An employee who can assess his or her own progress real-time will correct performance deficiencies without a manager’s insistence.

The Plan Isn’t a Secret

The final piece is constant communication about the plan and the company’s progress to the employees. The game plan is not only communicated initially, it must be kept alive throughout the year with meetings focused on measuring progress toward the goals. Successes should be celebrated frequently.

In my own company, we used something we called a Game Plan Circle to illustrate our plan each year. It was a six-foot circle with our vision in the middle that radiated out to cover company objectives, department and individual objectives. It served as a visual we could refer to in meetings to keep us on track.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let your business become another failure statistic. A business plan is a great first step in starting or fundamentally changing a business. The next step is a game plan – a translation of that business plan to each employee’s actions every day.

Become A Better Small Business Owner-Get A Group Health Plan

Many small business owners know that in order for them to be successful they must offer an incentive to recruit employees to work for them. This can be any number of things, but most often it is the benefit of offering group health insurance. While this could be an excellent strategy for your small business to take in order to recruit new employees, there are a few things that you must know first before you dive into selecting a plan. Research group insurance policies thoroughly before choosing one for your company.

A group health insurance plan can be obtained by any small business that has as little as two employees to as many as fifty. There are two ways you can go about supplying the health insurance to your employees; this will mainly be decided by your own budget. Many small businesses that offer group health insurance help contribute towards the cost of the plan. On the other hand if an employee wants to have coverage for their families, the employer might offer to pay the employees’ premiums and have them pay the premium for their families.

Another aspect of the group health insurance plan will be deciding between managed care or fee-for-service. Managed care plans include Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), or Point of Service plan (POS).

An HMO will significantly reduce the cost that your members will have to pay for medical care as long as they use the providers specified by the HMO. A PPO will not require a referral in order for them to see a specialist. While the PPO is more flexible it will bring higher costs to the per-visit and annual deductibles. The POS plans are basically a combination of the features that you will find in an HMO and PPO. Members get to decide whether to pay a flat fee for offices in the network, or pay a deductible charge to see someone out of network. The fee-for-service plan gives the employee the power to select health care providers themselves. This means that they will have way more flexibility with where they can go for medical assistance.

Adding an appealing Group Health insurance plan to your business could potentially bring you more employees. This is just the basic information about Group Health insurance; there are many options to consider when choosing a plan. Be sure to investigate all options to create the best plan for your employees.