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// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Apr. 1, 2016 0 comments
website design and strategy

If you’re starting a new business, you can quickly get caught up in developing the visual aspects of your concepts. Branding and having a web presence are important (and exciting!), and there are thousands of designers out there who have created beautiful products for their clients.

But do you need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a web design made from scratch? If you’re bootstrapping, that kind of investment might be out of the question right away.

If you’re not sure if you should spend money on a web designer or DIY, think about these three situations where doing it yourself could be a great option.

When you need it quick

Working with a web designer can be an amazing experience, but that quality work takes time. Consider your upcoming product launch or special event before you get quotes from a designer. From concepting to wireframing to content development, the process of taking a website from idea to live site can take weeks or months.

If your deadline is approaching and you need a web presence, it makes sense to take the DIY route. Even grabbing a domain and putting up a landing page can help solidify your web presence.

When you want something simple

If you’ve thought about your future web presence and don’t expect it to be very active, the DIY route might suit you well. If you primarily communicate through social networks like Facebook or Instagram, consider still setting up a website as a hub for the various ways customers or clients can reach you. Even a simple Wordpress-based site can accommodate an events calendar, news page or basic blog format.

When you don’t need ecommerce

Here’s one to think long and hard about: Will you ever consider offering ecommerce for your products or services? Depending on the complexity of your sales funnel, adding ecommerce to your website down the line could present big challenges for a web design novice. Simple web sales setups like Big Cartel or Squarespace can satisfy a lot of ecommerce needs you may want to add to your site; if you’re using a platform like Etsy, you may not want to integrate ecommerce at all.

A few more things to consider before you start laying out your DIY site:

  • Are you patient? DIY website builders like Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and Virb look easy, but it still takes time to master the learning curve and get your site looking just right. These platforms offer helpful tutorials to create a visually pleasing website and work through some of the common kinks, but it may still take some trial and error — or even time consulting forums — to overcome any tricky obstacles.
  • Do you have an eye for design? With all the possibilities available in a plug-and-play web design tool, you might be tempted to get carried away. Make sure the colors, style and navigation of your site match your brand and the goals of your organization. Putting together a website is the perfect time to remember the saying, “When in doubt, leave it out!”
  • Do you have time to make changes and updates on your own? Now’s the time to schedule regular updates to your website, or assign this task to someone on your team. Even if you’re not posting to a blog regularly, you’ll need to make sure your hours, contact information, policies and other pieces of information are accurate.

Not sure how much time or money you should spend building the online presence for your new company? Talk to a SCORE mentor who can guide you through this exciting time.

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by Hal Shelton / Mar. 31, 2016 0 comments
investor search

Are you thinking of approaching an angel investor to put money into your start-up or to help you scale up? Before you start contacting local angels, you should understand what they look for, so you make sure you are approaching the right angel groups and providing them with the information they need to make a “go” investment decision.

Here are important factors to help you find the best angel investor for your small business:

Do You Fit the Bill?

Before looking at the specifics of any investment opportunity, angels will determine if there is a fit with their investment approach.

Some angels invest in companies only in their state or region, while others invest only in certain industries: the most popular being health care/life sciences, enterprise software, internet marketing, mobile apps and related technology, and clean tech/renewal/green energy. Some have other criteria like investing only in women-owned businesses or companies founded by military academy grads and veterans. Others are interested only in companies in particular development stages: seed, A round, or B and later rounds.

If the angel group is actively engaged in their investments, they may require a board of director’s position.

About 95 percent of the 565,000 companies started each month will be operated by their founders for many years. Angels are not interested in these companies. They’re interested in the remaining 5 percent that have an exit plan, since this is when they get a return on their investment. All angels will ask you about your exit plans—when you intend to sell your company and cease involvement in your creation.

The Top 5 Factors

Once a fit is established, angels will look at the following five factors for each investment opportunity. While the factors are similar across angel groups, each will have its own idea on the importance given to each.

Factor 1: Management and Management Team

  • Is the founder/CEO tested in the current company?
  • Does he/she have a strong CV with relevant experience?
  • Is the founder/CEO coachable?
  • Does the founder/CEO have experience starting, growing and exiting companies; in other words, is he/she a serial entrepreneur?
  • Has the management team worked together before, especially in difficult situations?
  • Do the other management team members have strong CVs with relevant experience?

Factor 2: Product or Service

  • Does the product or service have a clear and tested value proposition with multiple customers?
  • Does the product/service have some market traction? Is it more than just an idea?
  • Are favorable customer experience references available?

Factor 3: Competitive Landscape

  • What are the barriers to entry by competitors?
  • Is there any enforceable intellectual property?
  • How long would it take a well-heeled competitor to copy the product/service and obtain market traction?
  • How many viable competitors exist?

Factor 4: Market Attractiveness

  • Is the addressable market several billion dollars?
  • Does the company have the potential to $10 million in annual sales? How long will it take?
  • How much market penetration can be achieved in the first year?

Factor 5: Financials

  • How long will it take the company to be cash flow positive?
  • What is the magnitude and stability of cash flows?
  • Is the current company valuation attractive and justifiable?
  • Assuming the company achieves its milestones with this investment, when and how large will the next funding be?
  • Have the founders, family, and friends already invested in the company? Are all current investors participating in this round?

Angel Hunting

Ready to start your search? Most angel groups have a website listing their investment approach, members and often the names of their portfolio companies. Following are resources to help you narrow you search:

  • Angel Capital Association: This trade organization for angel groups lists members by state and accredited platforms.
  • Angel List: This and other such platforms connect companies seeking funding and angel investors.
  • Google “angel groups in your state/area” or “angel groups investing in your business sector”.
  • Ask your lawyer and accountant for their recommendations.

Key Lessons

  • Angels have different investment approaches; find one that matches your situation.
  • Provide angel investors with the information they need to make a “go” investment decision.
Hal Shelton
Author and Mentor
SCORE

Hal is a SCORE mentor who is passionate about helping small businesses start and grow. He has been a CFO and board member for NYSE/NASDAQ publicly traded companies and nonprofits. He is currently an active investor in early-stage technology companies and is the Amazon bestselling author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan.
secretsofbusinessplans.com​ | Washington D.C. SCOREMore From Hal

// by Liberty Tax Service / Mar. 30, 2016 0 comments
stack of papers and folders

With tax day looming, everyone worries what papers are critical to keep and for how long. Do I really need that credit card receipt from five years ago? Can I throw away this year’s bank statements? Where’s my W2? If you’re a business owner, those worries magnify.

Here’s some guidance on what tax papers to keep, what to store digitally and what to shred:

What are the top six types of tax/financial documents a business owner should hold on to and for how long?

  1. Form 1040 and supporting documentation for business. Keep for 6 years. A scanned copy is sufficient.
     
  2. Small Business that is S-Corp or Partnership, Schedule K-1 to show your share. Keep for 6 years. A scanned copy is sufficient.
     
  3. Employee Records, Payroll Reports. Keep for 6 years. A scanned copy is sufficient.
     
  4. Partnership/LLC Agreement and any amendments. Keep a hard copy for the life of partnership.
     
  5. S-Corp acceptance letter and Form 2553. Keep for the life of the S-Corp. A scanned copy is sufficient.
     
  6. Any state local licenses required to operate your businesses. Keep hard copies. 

What three documents does it make sense to hold onto electronically even if a business owner doesn’t have to keep hard copies?

  1. Bank statements
     
  2. Legal agreements
     
  3. Copies of your federal and state tax filings

Which items should a business owner shred?

  1. Transaction statements that include sensitive data
     
  2. Other documents that contain personal data

Which items should a business owner keep under lock and key?

Titles, deeds and your will should be kept under lock and key because these documents are valuable and hard to replace.

Liberty Tax Service
SCORE Corporate Patron
Liberty Tax, Inc.

Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt, Liberty Tax, Inc. (NASDAQ: TAX) is the parent company of Liberty Tax Service. Liberty Tax’s online services are available through eSmart Tax, Liberty Online and DIY Tax, and are all backed by the tax professionals at Liberty Tax locations and its nationwide network of approximately 35,000 seasonal tax preparers. 
Liberty Tax.com | @LibertyTax | Facebook | More from Liberty Tax

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Mar. 29, 2016 0 comments
young businesspeople

I recently wrote on this blog that some U.S. Millennials are finding student debt a hurdle to their startup plans. But not all of the Millennial generation are letting debt hold them back. A new global study of highly successful, high-net-worth entrepreneurs of different generations spotlights a new breed dubbed the “millennipreneurs.”

Aged 20 to 35 years, millennipreneurs are more successful, running more profitable companies and helming bigger staffs than other generations, according to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report.

Here are some ways millennipreneurs differ from entrepreneurs of other generations:

Their companies are more profitable. Nearly 60 percent of millennipreneurs in the study expect their profits to increase in the next 12 months, compared to 42 percent of Baby Boomers. Millennipreneurs are also enjoying higher gross profit margins (averaging 29.7 percent).

They’re starting their businesses younger than ever. Compared to Baby Boomers, who launched their first companies at an average of 35 years old, the average millennipreneur starts a company at 31. The study notes that not only has technology made it easier to start a business at a younger age, but it's also become more widely accepted that young people can be taken seriously as business owners. (Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.)

They start more businesses. The average millennipreneur in the survey has already started almost eight companies, compared to an average of 3.5 for Baby Boomers. Considering that Boomers are at the end of their entrepreneurial careers while millennipreneurs are still at the beginning of theirs, this difference is even more striking. The report's authors surmise that the greater ease and affordability of starting a business today, thanks to technology, may contribute to the greater number of startups, and that millennipreneurs’ comfort level with failure could also play a role.

Their businesses are bigger. The average staff at a millennipreneur’s business is four times the size of the average Baby Boomer’s staff. One reason: Millennials are more likely to start businesses in ecommerce, retail and technology — industries that generally require a bigger staff than the Baby Boomers' preferred industries of accounting, consulting and legal services.

They learned from their parents. Fewer than one-fourth of millennipreneurs are first-generation business owners. By comparison, more than half of Baby Boomers were the first in their families to own businesses. Perhaps millennipreneurs are more comfortable with entrepreneurship because they learned from their parents.

They care about giving back. Traditionally entrepreneurs in the Baby Boomer generation grew their companies, became wealthy and only then started pursuing charitable causes. In contrast, “millennipreneurs” are building social responsibility into their companies from the get-go.

Of course, this report focuses on highly successful entrepreneurs, so no wonder the stats are impressive. But there are lessons for all startups here: Aim high, dream big and don't be afraid to fail. A SCORE mentor can help you overcome the startup hurdles, no matter whether you’re a Millennial, Baby Boomer or somewhere in between. Visit www.score.org to learn more. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Rochelle Robinson / Mar. 28, 2016 0 comments
Due Diligence

This is second of two articles on buying an existing business by Rochelle Robinson. Read the first post on the research process when purchasing a business.

The next steps are examining detailed information from the seller regarding the business operations and finances, also known as due diligence. 

Due Diligence

Once you feel comfortable with your non-intrusive research, you will need to come to an agreement to purchase the business, contingent upon review of confidential business documents. A buyer may be requested to sign a non-disclosure or non-compete agreement before being granted sensitive and confidential access to a business.

Due diligence will provide you with access to the business inventory and equipment, financials, contracts, intellectual property and any outstanding legal matters. Knowing all the details of an existing business helps you determine the financial risk involved and provides you with a stronger position for negotiation.

During the due diligence process, you must ask tough questions to the seller as well as continuing your own research.  You may want to acquire expert representation through a business broker, attorney, and accounting team.

Legal

Be fully aware of existing and future legal obligations, outstanding judgments or tax liens. Make sure the business meets all local health and environmental requirements. Check for all proper licensing, permits and zoning compliance.

Review all existing contracts with suppliers and employees. Make sure you fully understand any clauses that may concern you or hinder future business, including upcoming expiration dates and potential cost increases. Buying a business that agreed to distribute a portion of future profits in order to receive an initial discount could be trouble for you.

Assets

Make sure the existing business owns all key assets by making an itemized checklist. Make sure you are aware of the cost to replace any key equipment. Determine if there are any items, equipment, vehicles and property which are still being paid for or may have been leased, loaned or rented to make sure the financial terms are included in the sale.

Finances and Taxes

Take an in-depth look at the accounting practices, revenue, inventory management and accounts receivable. Look at previous tax returns, existing debt and stock ownership. You may consider hiring an independent business valuation attorney or CPA to review the business financials with a fine-toothed comb.

Valuation

Accurately determining the value of an existing small business can be a challenge when negotiating. Conflict may occur as both the buyer and the seller want to believe that they are getting a good deal. A business valuation is not an exact science and can be highly subjective.

  • An asset-based valuation is used when a business is no longer profitable, like a liquidation, where the value comes from inventory and equipment assets.
  • An income-approach valuation is utilized for businesses that don’t have many assets. This model is based on a business’s potential for future income.
  • A market-approach valuation is used most often for small businesses. This model looks at the industry and compares the value with similar businesses.

A proper valuation uses the information obtained during the research and due diligence phases as support. The business should be evaluated based on acquired information and calculations using, among other factors, the economy, historical earnings, current cash flow, potential profit and future market growth.  

Purchasing

If you’re comfortable with the outcome of the due diligence, you have a few more management decisions to consider. You will need to determine how you will purchase the business – through a stock or assets transaction. An asset purchase transaction is the sale of the business assets. A stock purchase is the sale of the existing business stock only. If the existing business is a sole proprietorship, LLC, or partnership, the only legal option is an asset sale. A corporation, C or S, can be sold as either an asset or stock sale.

Financing

Purchasing an existing business can be expensive and will require more money as a down payment. Financing options can include using savings, a conventional bank loan, SBA loans like the 7(a), private investors or possible seller financing.

The due diligence and valuation process should have provided you with the necessary information needed to make an informed decision. Based on your research, you will need to submit a formal offer with a price through your attorney. Figure out the maximum amount that you’re willing to pay, and enter into negotiations with minimal emotions. Remember to refrain from being offensive and overly critical to the seller. It won’t help negotiations if you minimize their business efforts.

The process to purchase an existing business can be costly and exhausting. Thorough research, due diligence and a reasonable offer, a buyer can solidify a sale and get you on the path to small business ownership. 

Rochelle Robinson
Business and Wealth Advisor
WealthSide Capital
Rochelle Robinson is a business & wealth advisor serving as a CEO of WealthSide Capital, a pioneer in business and financial management services and Managing Editor of WealthSide.com, a leading interactive financial empowerment community. Rochelle is focused on small business solutions, personal finance management, and achieving financial freedom through wealth creation.
www.robuildswealth.com | @robuildswealth | More from Rochelle 
// by Bridget Weston Pollack / Mar. 25, 2016 0 comments
Aquatic Veterinary Services

Jessie Sanders was frustrated with her job search for a “normal” veterinary job. She had always wanted to work in aquatic medicine. “So I went ahead and started my own specialty practice,” Sanders says.

Instead of settling on a job she wasn't excited about, Jessie Sanders designed her own perfect career: Aquatic veterinary medicine.

While Sanders was excited about her chosen specialty, she soon realized that many potential clients had no idea her practice area existed. But the popularity of her ambulatory care services quickly became successful enough to warrant the development of a clinic, Aquatic Veterinary Services of Northern California, which Sanders calls the fish hospital.

“I needed help designing a business plan to take my ambulatory veterinary practice to an in-house practice and retail store,” she recalls. Mentor Barbara Humphries walked Sanders through a six-month planning phase before referring her to mentor Michael Sarka for marketing plan assistance.

Why the business planning process is so important

Sanders says the planning process, while lengthy, “was completely necessary for me to implement the correct steps to get to where I am now.”

“When I was first getting started, there were so many things I had to learn really quickly,” she says. “Thankfully, my father started his own extremely successful company, so he was there to guide me through the startup steps. Over the years, we have continued to grow.” 

The construction of Sanders’ first office space took a year. “Waiting for that to move forward was an incredible test of patience,” she admits.

Marketing a specialty niche

“My main struggle has always been marketing,” Sanders says. “Since we are a specialty veterinary practice, getting the word out to the right people has always been a struggle. Especially since there are so few veterinarians who work with fish, like I do, most people are not aware our specialty even exists!” 

As she moved Aquatic Veterinary Services of Northern California into its new clinic space, Sanders opened a second business to complement her veterinary practice. Sanders’ retail shop, Santa Cruz Koi, offers koi pond supplies, equipment, treatments and koi food. “It has added physical products to my veterinary service and a whole new batch of challenges.” Those challenges include managing the employees who keep the clinic and shop running smoothly.

“My business transitioned from a one-person, on-the-road business to a two-business veterinary hospital and retail store with six employees,” Sanders reports. “This would not have been possible without the assistance of my mentors.”


“Think it through to completion,” Sanders advises other aspiring entrepreneurs. “Starting your own business is the dream of many individuals, but you need planning and forethought to see it from beginning to end. Problems will not fix themselves mid-project. You have to plan for all the bumps ahead and know how to go over them.”

Meet with a SCORE mentor to take your specialty business to the next level.

Bridget Weston Pollack
Vice President of Marketing & Communications
SCORE
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association. In this role, Bridget is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies for the organization to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services.
// by The UPS Store / Mar. 24, 2016 0 comments
steps to success

Do you want to create your own business but need the security of your full-time job? Developing a company while still employed is not only possible but actually offers several benefits. You can try entrepreneurship on a part-time basis while saving money for your business. The key to starting the new journey of becoming an entrepreneur is time management and planning. The first step is choosing your business which might be the toughest decision in your entrepreneurial venture.

To help you determine your ideal business, consider these factors:

Current job

Do you want to develop a business as an extension of your full-time job? If so, you already have the knowledge, skills and experience. However, you must feel comfortable doing the same work in your spare time. Tutoring math at home might become tiresome after teaching math at a school all day.

Hobbies

You may want to take a different route, and use your hobby as the springboard for your business. This path offers a change of pace from your day job. A growing interest in photography might lead to photographing your friend’s wedding, a neighbor’s anniversary party and so on. Don’t fret if you don’t have all the skills necessary to make a business from your hobby; you can partner with someone who complements your talents.

Personality

Choose a business that suits you and how you work. If you are a people person, then writing on a computer tucked in your home office might not be a good fit. Are you comfortable networking and pitching your company to strangers, or would you rather stay in your workshop and build furniture?

Time commitment

Creating a business is a difficult and time-consuming endeavor even without a full-time job. Making the pieces of your life fit together can be challenging but worth it if entrepreneurship is your dream.

Think about whether the job can even be operated on a part-time basis. Working eight hours in a store while starting a full-time daycare center will be difficult unless you have a business partner.

Location

Do you need a store or office, or can you start your business from home? Running a startup at home while working is the simplest, cheapest solution, but obviously not all jobs allow for that option. Starting a restaurant in your dining room isn’t a long-term solution!

Analyzing all of these factors can help you determine your ideal business. Read the remaining steps to entrepreneurship in the “16 Steps to Starting a Business While Working Full Time” guide. SCORE and The UPS Store partnered to write this guide to help people like you realize their dream of business ownership. Blazing a new trail as an entrepreneur can be a long, difficult endeavor, but you don’t have to do it alone. Connect with a free business mentor at SCORE, and use the small business resources at The UPS Store near you. Good luck on your journey, and remember to take it one step at a time.

The UPS Store
SCORE Corporate Patron

The UPS Store comprises the nation’s largest franchise system of retail shipping, postal, printing and business service centers. In addition to packing and shipping services, your locally owned The UPS Store offers professional printing services, mailboxes with a street address, notary, direct mail services, and more.
The UPS Store | @TheUPSStore | Facebook | More from The UPS Store

// by Dex Media / Mar. 23, 2016 0 comments
search optimization

No one can promise you a #1 position in the “organic” (non-paid) listings for local businesses on Google or other search engines.  If someone does – run the other way. 

You can study your competitors that have climbed to the top of the search return pages, learn their tactics and adapt them for your small business website. 

We recently made that study for plumbers, roofers, HVAC companies, veterinarians and other local businesses and came up with this list of 6 tactics to learn from. 

1.  Fill out your Google My Business account

Highly ranked businesses give Google a lot to work with – location info, hours of operation, descriptions and images – by filling out their Google My Business account.  Google uses this to populate the Knowledge Panel, the description box that pops up on Google for local businesses and to place business locations on maps.

2.  Encourage customers to write reviews on Google

The rankings winners also have robust collections of reviews and ratings that customers entered directly on Google, most likely a favorable sign in the search engine’s eyes. Winners are also frequently reviewed on other review sites. Google has said that it runs some kind of “sentiment” meter on reviews to check the reputation of businesses and factors that into ranking.  But don’t worry if the reviews aren’t all positive – Google is also thought to check for “diversity” of opinions to make sure you’re not trying to game them with reviews stuffing.

3.  Standardize your business information around the web

If you check directory and review sites around the web for listings of these winners, you’ll see that the names, locations, phone numbers and other information as displayed on Google is consistent across sites.  Search engines check for this consistency as a signal that the business is legitimate.

4. Website content: Make it unique, valuable and useful

Google increasingly powers its search by sophisticated artificial intelligence with capabilities that go way beyond simple hunting for keywords and into judging the quality of content on the page. The sites that succeed go beyond stringing keywords together and invest in useful content that offers details about products and services.  A second benefit: Content that gives site visitors something to do – read, fill out a form, download a coupon or take a quiz – ensures they won’t “bounce,” that is, take one look and leave, a bad signal for the search engines.

5. Get mobile friendly

Nothing mysterious about this one: Google clearly stated that it will downgrade sites on its search pages for mobile phones if they aren’t “mobile friendly”—coded in a way that the sites adjust their appearance to fit the screens of mobile devices.

6.  Mind the housekeeping details

This is a conversation to have with your web developer who should be minding the long list of technical details that make a site acceptable to search engines. For instance, winner sites download quickly, have a simple structure that’s easy for search robots to navigate and name each page with “title tags” that clearly state the products or services and locations that you want Google to rank you for.

Learn more about best practices for business websites from the Dex Media blog.

Jeff B. Copeland is a senior manager for content at Dex Media, where he works on the Dex Media blog and email newsletter, the consumer information site EnlightenMe.com and other content projects.

Dex Media
SCORE Corporate Patron

Dex Media is dedicated to working with local businesses to provide them marketing solutions that will help them grow their business and be successful. Dex Media helps level the playing field and give these businesses the edge to compete in today’s digital marketplace. We’re here to give them the solutions they need to connect with customers, wherever they may be.
DexMedia.com | @DexMediacom | Facebook | More from Dex Media

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Mar. 22, 2016 0 comments
business women

In 2015, the federal government achieved a milestone I wasn't sure I'd ever see in my lifetime: It finally reached a goal set more than 20 years ago of awarding 5 percent of all federal contracts to women-owned small businesses.

Now, 5 percent doesn't sound like much, does it? Especially when you consider that women-owned businesses account for 36.3 percent of all US businesses, that women employ some 8.4 million U.S. workers, and that the rate of women's business ownership has increased by nearly 27 percent in the past five years. In Washington, DC (prime ground for federal contractors), nearly half (45 percent) of businesses are owned by women. Last year, the federal government awarded 25.75 percent of contracts to small businesses in general—a record high.

Given these figures, why has reaching even 5 percent of all federal contracts taken so long? There are many answers to that question, but small business owners don't look back — they look ahead. As Small Business Administration (SBA) administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said when announcing the achievement, “Meeting this longstanding contracting goal means 5 percent is no longer our ceiling but our foundation upon which to build.”

To go beyond 5 percent, more women business owners need to aim for federal contracts. If you're interested, what can you do to boost your chances?

Know how the system works. The federal government sets aside a certain percentage of federal contracts for Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). In addition to being at least 51 percent owned and controlled by women, your business must also meet size and other standards to be eligible to compete for WOSB set-asides. Learn more about the WOSB program.

Get help. Last year, my small business finally completed the lengthy process of getting certified as a Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). To say that it was challenging would be an understatement, and we couldn't have done it without the help of a lot of outside resources. Fortunately, there are myriad sources that can help you decide whether federal contracting is right for you, find opportunities and successfully bid for them.

The SBA offers tons of government contracting resources, training programs, online courses, certifications and more to help you navigate all the steps involved in working with the federal government. Visit the Government Contracting Classroom for more information.

The SBA also has Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) in six offices across the U.S. you can contact for additional assistance with federal contracting opportunities.

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), American Express OPEN and the SBA have a program called ChallengeHER that provides events, education and webinars to help women compete for government contracts using the Women Owned Small Business (WOSB) set-aside program. There are events for both newbies and more experienced entrepreneurs; whichever level you are at, you'll have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with federal government buyers.

And, of course, your local SCORE office can help you with everything from getting certified as a WOSB to finding contracting opportunities and preparing your marketing strategy. If you don't have a SCORE mentor yet, visit www.score.org to get matched with one start getting assistance today.

Thanks to the findings of a report commissioned by Contreras-Sweet, the number of North American Classification System (NAICS) groups designated as part of the WOSB program is being expanded, which will mean more opportunities for women-owned businesses to take part in federal contracting. If you've ever been interested in working with the federal government, there's never been a better time.

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
GrowBizMedia.com | @rieva | More from Rieva

// by Rochelle Robinson / Mar. 21, 2016 0 comments
research binder

This is the first of two articles by Rochelle Robinson detailing the process of buying an existing business. 

For potential entrepreneurs, buying an existing business may be the best way to get started quickly by skipping most of the startup work.

The good part of buying an existing business could be positive brand recognition, a strong customer base, trained staff and a well-established network of suppliers. The bad part could involve pre-existing financial, legal, or contract issues, negative brand recognition and challenges with the staff or vendors.

Buying an existing business could be a good idea as long as you research to fully assess the company's complete financial performance and overall value.

Personal assessment

Before you plan on purchasing an existing business, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the business genuinely interest you enough to spend countless hours working there?
  • Can you get started right away, or will you need to attain certain skills or licensing?
  • Are you more left-brained or right-brained? Are you better with handling the finances instead of sales? What positions would you need to fill?
  • Do you have connections with suppliers if the existing relationships dissolve?
  • Are you familiar with the industry – is it growing?
  • Who is your competition? Do they have similar resources and overhead expenses?

Non-intrusive research

As with any major purchase, you need to do your research. Find out why the owner is looking to sell their business. Most small business owners have an attachment to their business and have probably spent an abundance of time, sweat, and possibly tears to build. Reasons vary but could include the owner having health issues or a highway bypass being built which would steer traffic away from the business and harm the business's viability. Some owners may fail to disclose critical information that could determine the success of the business. Don’t accept generic responses – become your own private investigator, and perform your own non-intrusive research.

Ask trusted friends and family to visit the establishment and provide you with feedback, talk to the staff discretely, and – if possible – talk to customers. If you plan on purchasing a dining establishment, check out the parking lot on a Friday or Saturday night to see how many customers the business has, and consider going in to check out the atmosphere. Are servers standing around while customers are being neglected? Was the food overcooked, or did it take too long to be served? Discretely identify potential challenges and opportunities. If you’re planning on buying a retail establishment, place an order to get the full customer experience. Take note of customer service, comparable pricing and the quality of goods.

Do an online search of the business including the business name, the physical address and the owner’s name. Perform a search with the Better Business Bureau and local court records for both the owner's name and the business name.

Use social media to determine more about the business – check for reviews on Facebook and any mentions on Twitter. Research the business's overall online presence. It may make your efforts more challenging if there are a lot of complaints or negative reviews about the business.

Research the industry, keeping in mind that technology is constantly changing traditional business models. Purchasing an existing book, video or record store may not be the best idea unless it has a targeted niche market. Research business competitors, and see how they compare to the business you want to purchase.

Researching the business that you want to purchase can offer valuable insight into the existing strengths and weaknesses.

Read Rochelle Robinson’s second article about due diligence and valuation.

Rochelle Robinson
Business and Wealth Advisor
WealthSide Capital
Rochelle Robinson is a business & wealth advisor serving as a CEO of WealthSide Capital, a pioneer in business and financial management services and Managing Editor of WealthSide.com, a leading interactive financial empowerment community. Rochelle is focused on small business solutions, personal finance management, and achieving financial freedom through wealth creation.
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