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// by OnDeck / Feb. 18, 2016 0 comments
approved small business loan application

Picking the right type of financing for a small business isn’t as simple as it was a few years ago. There are more options available today, but those options are often very different in the terms they offer, how they are priced, and where they might provide the most value to your business. Answering these four questions will not only help you narrow the field of potential lenders, but you’ll likely be able to determine which loan makes the most sense for you and your business.

Why am I looking for a loan?

Understanding loan purpose is a critical part of determining what type of loan is a good fit for your business. Long-term loans and short-term loans are very different and some loan types are better suited for some purposes than others. Loan purpose will help you know where to look. What’s more, you may discover you need something different than you originally expected.

For example, a traditional five-to ten-year loan could still be a good option for purchasing new space, buying an expensive piece of construction equipment, or adding a new location, but might not be the best choice for meeting a short-term cash flow need or investment opportunity. Traditional lenders, like banks, typically offer longer-term loans while many online lenders offer shorter-term loans.

Once you’ve determined your loan purpose, you can look for lenders who offer the type of loan that best fits your situation.

Which loan term best fits my situation?

This is an important question. Short-term needs like buying quick turnaround inventory, ramping up a new employee, or borrowing to bridge a seasonal cash flow gap will likely be better addressed with a six- to 12-month loan rather than a longer-term loan. That way, your business can borrow, meet the need, and pay off the debt quickly. Paying interest for several years on inventory that will turn over in five to six months would be like buying an automobile with a 30-year home mortgage. While the payments might be ridiculously low, the total cost of the interest could eliminate any profit you would capture when you sold the inventory.

For longer-term needs where the value of the loan purpose will be enjoyed over the course of many years, like a new warehouse, an additional location, or purchasing heavy equipment, a more traditional 4-, 5-, or 10-year business loan may be a better fit. The nature of the loan purpose and the associated cost will help you determine the length of the term.

As a general rule, the longer the loan term the smaller the periodic payment, but the greater the overall cost of the loan. Shorter-term loans often have a lower overall cost, but the periodic payments will be higher—making it important to accurately evaluate your cash flow to ensure you can make the regular payments.

How much money do I really need?

Loan purpose also informs the loan amount. In other words, the amount of capital you’re looking for should be in line with your loan purpose. The cost of borrowed capital (even on a low-interest loan) is too expensive to borrow when it is more than what you really need. What’s more, lenders appreciate borrowers who know exactly what they require and aren’t looking for a blank check.

The loan amount will also influence where you look. A bank isn’t typically interested in smaller loan amounts, but SBA-affiliated banks or credit unions are encouraged by the agency to offer loans under $150,000. Loans the SBA considers micro-loans, or those under $50,000, are available from the SBA through their micro-loan program.

Along with the SBA, other non-profit lenders specialize in micro-loans for borrowers who can leverage a relatively small loan amount into positive impact within their business.

In addition to traditional lenders like banks and credit unions, there is a relatively new category of lenders who do business online and offer loans anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. Different lenders specialize in different loan amounts and terms, so depending upon how much you are looking for you can narrow your search to a lender who specializes in the loan amount and terms you’re looking for. What’s more, many of these lenders will work with borrowers with less-than-perfect credit provided you can demonstrate a healthy business.

What does my credit profile look like?

If you don’t already know what your credit profile looks like, it’s relatively easy to find out. For most small business owners, your personal credit will be part of the equation, so you can start there. Experian, Equifax, and Transunion are the three biggest personal credit bureaus. Federal law allows you to check your credit report for free once every year. And, an Internet search will provide several options in addition to the three bureaus noted above.

The three biggest business credit bureaus are Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax. They are motivated to make sure the information they collect on your business is as accurate as possible so they want small business owners to check their reports regularly to make sure the information they have is correct—giving you the opportunity to see the information they have about your business.

Some lenders like banks, credit unions, and the loan guarantee programs at the SBA, consider a potential borrower’s personal credit score a very important metric when evaluating your credit and treat a certain threshold as a go-no-go measurement. For example, if your personal score drops below 680 it’s unlikely you’ll find much success at the local bank. The SBA will work with a borrower with a credit score as low as 650—provided the business meets other requirements. Many online lenders will work with otherwise healthy businesses if the business owner has a lower score, but you should expect to pay more for that credit.

In addition to the loan types mentioned above, crowdfunding, merchant cash advance, invoice financing, and other specialty loan products are available for specific things like purchasing equipment or factoring your accounts receivable. Asking yourself these four questions will help you determine where to look, what to look for, and will likely point you in the direction of where you’ll have the most success. They will also help you determine which type of small business loan makes the most sense for your business.

Finding the right small business loan isn’t as easy as walking into the bank anymore, but the good news is there are more options available today and more capital available to help small business owners fuel growth or fund other working capital needs.

OnDeck
by Ty Kiisel
SCORE Corporate Patron
Ty Kiisel contributes to the SCORE blog from OnDeck. OnDeck offers business loans and business lines of credit to small businesses across the United States. OnDeck analyzes businesses differently than traditional lenders, which means that they can make more loans than traditional lenders, and they can fund businesses within hours or days – not weeks or months.
// by Jeanne Rossomme / Feb. 17, 2016 0 comments
content marketing and SEO

This article is written for professional services firms (adding on to last week’s blog post on tips for refreshing your website). While we all want to use our blog to establish “thought leadership”, it is definitely tougher and tougher for the smaller firm to cut through the digital clutter. It is now about two years since LinkedIn introduced its Pulse platform where your content can be pushed out to existing and new professional contacts.

When employing this tactic, try to avoid blindly spamming your LinkedIn list with a barrage of content. It is better to concentrate on a select and thoughtful approach:

1. Control the who: Pulse posts are shared with first degree connections and followers. But there are some followers (competitors for example) that you may not want to let in on your content strategy. You can click “Hide” if you do NOT want a connection to see your feed.  After you post, all “Likes” build up your first degree connections so you should look at this each time.

2. Generate ideas and a calendar of super posts: Conversion success with LinkedIn Pulse (as with much of social media) is definitely spotty. Think about what questions a buyer may really be interested in as they move through their buying cycle. You may just hit a buyer at the right research moment. 

3. Take extra care with the title: Titles with specific numbers and "how to" – like my “10 steps” title above. Be provocative; express your opinion, so others will chime in.

4. Add great visuals: LinkedIn Pulse allows up to 8 images.

5. Create longer form (but digestible) posts: Pulse loves content more than 3 paragraphs. But use writing-for-web best practices of lists, visuals, call out of key “aha” facts”.

6. Set up links to drive interested readers to your website for more.

7. Tag with the keywords: You want to dominate: the more specific, the better.

8. Add your own by-line: At the end of each post.

9. Test post timing: Post on Sunday or Thursday to start – and then experiment to see what works better for you.

10. Respond to all comments: Immediately to take advantage of the engagement.

A few thoughts on SEO… 

There is an active debate on whether it is better to post all content on your own website without handing over the SEO juice to LinkedIn.  If you post identical content in multiple places, conventional wisdom is that Google will penalize your site. 

I reached out to Terri Holley who has several successful blogs and does digital marketing consulting. Here are her thoughts after much research:

“I've read different things about this topic, and I've decided to err on the safe side. I tend to get the best advice from folks that do nothing all day but SEO - literally live and breath it. Here's another post that brings up some very good points (especially #3).

If you decide to publish across platforms, just to be safe, I would change the title and meta descriptions. You could also publish then wait and see, but if you are hit with penalties, it might take a while to reverse them, and many businesses can't afford even a few weeks of a SEP shift.  Even dropping a position or two can put people into panic mode.”

You have a few options. Test them!

  • Post on your own blog first and promote via your business Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites where your prospects are likely to look for information.  A few days later change the title and meta description and publish on Pulse.
  • Post older content that is evergreen on LinkedIn rather than your new content.
  • Post a reworked article for LinkedIn that has a catchy title and points to your website for the longer detail.  Of course this is the most work, but may result in the highest conversion.

Here is a great beginner guide from Hubspot - they are the masters of content marketing.

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

// by Rieva Lesonsky / Feb. 16, 2016 0 comments
startup fist bump

If you currently work in a corporate job and are dreaming about starting your own business, you might think that your experience as a manager or executive in a corporate environment prepares you for being a business owner. After all, you've already got business experience, have a grip on how to run a department and know how to manage employees. What could be so different about being in charge of an entire company?

Here are a few things you need to know before you take the leap:

  • Managing a company is different than managing a startup. Yes, if you're fortunate and work hard, at some point your startup will become a bigger business—one that your corporate experience may well have prepared you to operate. However, for the foreseeable future, you'll be in the startup phase. That means you probably won't even have employees, much less multiple departments. Rather, you will be playing the role of accounting, marketing, sales and business development (not to mention admin and janitor) all at once.
  • Managing yourself is different than managing employees. As a startup entrepreneur, you’ll work harder than you've ever worked in your entire life. This requires managing not only your productivity, but also your emotional, intellectual and physical energy. There's no backup for you, so you must ensure that you’re operating at your peak, or your startup will suffer. No matter how productive you are now, it’s surprising how much harder it can be to manage yourself effectively when there's no one else higher up holding you accountable.
  • Managing startup employees is different than managing corporate employees. Of course, not every startup is a solo venture. Perhaps you're lucky enough to have some employees from the get-go. You'll discover that motivating employees in a startup is more challenging than doing so in a corporate environment. For one thing, the work is often harder, and the rewards are less defined. You have fewer carrots to dangle in front of your employees—big raises or bonuses aren't really in the picture at this point, and even stock options may seem like pie in the sky. You’ll need to come up with your own creative ways for motivating workers.

The biggest difference in running a startup rather than being part of a corporate team, of course, is that the buck stops with you. Are you comfortable with that? Maybe you've always dreamed of being the one to call the shots. But maybe you get a little nervous at the idea of not having anyone to back you up or provide direction. If that's the case, here are a couple of options to consider:

  • Investigate buying a franchise. In a franchise business, you purchase a franchise opportunity from a parent company, the franchisor, that has already created a system for doing business, developed a brand and provides training and marketing assistance for franchisees (that's you). Buying a well-established franchise puts you in business "for yourself, but not by yourself." You'll get guidance and support from the franchisor that can help ease the transition into business ownership.
  • Find mentors. Tapping into the wisdom of those who have "been there, done that" is a great way to ease the nervousness that every new business owner feels. Work your connections to see if you know someone in the industry you are considering entering. Set up a board of advisors for your new business made up of people whose business experience and opinions you value. Visit SCORE at www.score.org to get matched with a SCORE mentor who can provide free business counseling and advice. 
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 Bridget Weston Pollack / Feb. 12, 2016 1 comments
telework

The power of technology has made it possible to do business not only across town, but across the world. Who knows -- your small business might not even have an office, complete with rent, a mail slot and utility bills. If your small business specializes in services or digital products, you may never even meet your employees in person!

Teams who work remotely have the flexibility to do great work regardless of location, time zone or method of transportation. Thanks to online collaboration tools and mobile devices, working remotely is just as routine now as using a fax machine was 15 years ago.

If you manage a remote team or are thinking of adding remote team members to your small business family, read on. You’ll want to consider a few items before letting your team loose on your company’s to-do lists.

Communicate early and often

Communication with your team is almost more important in a remote environment than it is in a traditional office. Working alone for hours or days at a time can make employees feel isolated and disconnected from your team’s goals. It can seem more difficult to get the support they need when employees can’t just drop by your office for a minute or two.

Using email or instant messaging systems can fill some communications gaps, but remember that tone can get lost in text. What might be said with a hearty laugh and a warm smile at the conference table might be construed as sarcasm or anger over email, where body language can’t be discerned.

So when it comes to communication, mix it up, and do it often. Supplement email or instant message conversations with video chats, phone check-ins or perhaps an annual meeting that brings the whole team to one location to plan for the year to come.

Develop remote work policies

Just because your team might work in a variety of locations doesn’t mean the work day is a free-for-all. Enact remote-work policies that help your team work together while still maintaining a sense of professionalism.

For example, you might want to set working hours when it’s acceptable for team members to call upon one another. If your team spans time zones, this may be more difficult to enforce, but you may still be able to find overlapping work periods among your staff.

Set a recurring time and method to host remote team meetings; for instance: Every Monday at 9:30 a.m. on Google Hangouts. If your team can expect to catch up with one another at a specific time, they’ll better be able to plan their days around these typical commitments -- and plan their progress in between meetings.

What about sick days? Working from home doesn’t mean a cold or flu won’t derail an employee’s productivity. Encourage employees to take their allotted sick days when necessary to make sure they’re at peak performance when they clock back in.

Choose the right tools

Remote collaboration requires the right tools to get the job done. If you’re just starting to build your remote team, consider some of the online collaboration programs that can make managing your team easier:

Are you interested in integrating remote work policies into your small business? Meet with a SCORE mentor to discuss your needs and goals.

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 Rieva Lesonsky / Feb. 9, 2016 0 comments
marketing efforts

It’s been said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Unfortunately, too many small business owners are stuck in this trap. Here are some warning signs your business may be in a rut—and ideas for how to change things up.

You try to do everything yourself.

You’re answering the phones, balancing the books, working the front desk and overseeing your marketing. Not only are you exhausted all the time, but opportunities are falling through the cracks because you're too busy to take advantage of them.

Change it up: In order for your business to grow, you have to let some things go. Figure out what daily activities bring the least value to your business, and find a way to delegate them—whether by bringing in a part-time employee or outsourcing to a virtual assistant. Then figure out what daily activities best use your particular skills, and focus on those.

You aren't getting good results from your marketing efforts.

But instead of trying something different, you pour more money into the same channels. Or perhaps you aren't even measuring the results of your marketing.

Change it up: Set measurable goals for your marketing and track the results on a quarterly basis. Which methods are getting the best results, and which are falling short? Adjust your marketing efforts as needed to spend more on what's working and less on what isn't.

You're still balancing your books with pen and paper.

OK, maybe you've upgraded to an Excel spreadsheet. The point is, you're using old-fashioned methods.

Change it up: There are so many simple accounting tools for small businesses that there's no excuse for not using one. Whether you download accounting software or subscribe to it in the cloud, digitizing your books has myriad benefits. You'll be able to integrate your accounting software with your business bank accounts so that everything updates in real time, easily share information with your accountant and quickly generate reports to help you plan for the future of your business.

You never get out of your office. 

It's easy for your business to become your comfort zone—but it can also harm you in the long run.

Change it up: Make the effort to get involved in business networking—not just social networking online, although that's great, but in-person networking in the real world. Participate in local chambers of commerce, industry organizations and business networking groups. Don't just show up and sit in the back row—volunteer to take a leading role. You'll meet more people this way and build more connections.

You're a technophobe.

Technology is changing so fast that almost every small business owner will feel technologically challenged at some point. But giving in to your fear of technology will put your business at a huge disadvantage.

Change it up: Get expert help to learn how to take advantage of all the features of the technology you’re currently using in your business. That may mean taking a class, visiting a store or hiring an IT consultant. Don't be embarrassed to admit what you don't know: That's the only way you learn anything new.

You don't see the forest for the trees.

There are so many things to deal with daily when you own your business that it's easy to get lost in the weeds.

Change it up: Take time at least once a week to pull back and look at the big picture of how your business is progressing. Assess your business’s strengths and weaknesses, along with those of your competitors. Keep up with your industries news and trends so you can stay one step ahead of the pack. Yes, it may be hard to take time away from the day-to-day, but if you don't do so, your business will never grow beyond small potatoes.

Enlisting an expert to help you is a great way to break out of a rut, get new ideas and start doing things differently. Visit www.score.org to get matched with one of SCORE’s expert mentors today.

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 Bridget Weston Pollack / Feb. 5, 2016 2 comments
freelance entrepreneurs

What’s the freelance economy? Where do you fit in?

Our ideas about work have changed dramatically in the past few years, and we take a closer look in our latest infographic, “The Freelance Economy: How Work Has Changed.”

The freelance workforce grows

Freelancers make up 34 percent of the U.S. workforce — that’s 54 million people who earn some of their income from self-employment! These independent contractors come in every shape, size, age and industry.

While many Baby Boomers are consultants, Generation X and Millennials make up the largest groups of full-time freelance entrepreneurs, according to a study by MBO Partners.

Who’s to thank for this increase in freelance work opportunities? Newer technology helps. Almost 70 percent of freelancers feel the internet and social media have expanded their work opportunities, with help from talent marketplaces, mobile apps and co-working spaces.

Independence doesn’t guarantee success

Whether they work in the arts, information technology or consult on something in between, freelancers enjoy scheduling flexibility, independence and a deep passion for their work.

Freelancing doesn’t mean complete freedom is guaranteed, however. Independent workers hustle to find work, ensure a livable income and get paid in a timely fashion. In addition to the challenges of self-employment, freelancers typically face higher taxes, since they’re taxed as both employee and employer.

Optimism awaits freelancers

But despite the challenges, freelancers remain optimistic. Sixty-five percent of freelancers believe their independent working style is more respected now than it was in 2012.

Intuit predicts that contingent workers will exceed 40 percent of the American workforce by 2020. Small businesses are expected to work particularly closely with independent contractors in order to utilize their talent pools as needed while minimizing regular labor costs.

Interested in boosting your freelance success? Get free business advice from a SCORE mentor.

Download the full infographic.

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 Michael Katz / Feb. 4, 2016 0 comments
marketing magic formula

I suppose I should just come right out and say it: I don’t exactly know how to use the rear windshield wiper on my car.

I mean I sort of know how to use it…

I know which button turns it on and off; I know that there are three different settings.

But I don’t really know which setting does what or even what the range of possible behaviors is (fast, slow, intermittent, coordinated with the front wipers, etc.)

And so each time it rains I just start clicking in all directions until something appropriate happens.

Now, in my defense, let me just say that I’ve only owned the car for 17,739 miles (that’s 19 months, for those of you on the metric system). So I figure there’s still time to figure out all the ins and outs.

But why, I wondered as I fumbled with the controls this morning on the way to my office, have I not yet cracked the windshield wiper code?

Is it because the wiper button is tiny and has no writing associated with it?

Is it because the only time I think about it is when I’m driving in the rain, and at that point I can’t investigate further?

Or, am I just kind of dumb?

Maybe, maybe and hey, watch it mister.

But no, the real reason, I think, is simply this: It’s not a big enough or annoying enough problem to fix.

And so while I could get the answer right now, once and for all, by just getting up, walking out to the parking lot and opening the manual in the glove compartment, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to bother.

The fact is, small annoyances – whether regarding your car, your house, your brother-in-law, or any number of other things in your life – often go unfixed for years and years.

Which brings me to the way you run your solo business and, in particular, your marketing. Here as well, we take care of the big stuff right away – but often ignore the little things.

If your web site is down you contact your hosting company immediately. If your printer dies you run right out and buy a new one. If a check bounces you call the bank and take care of it.

Big things = Fast action.

The little things, though, often go unfixed. One of the most common of these if you’re a solo professional is a lack of consistency in the way you describe your work.

Your web site says one thing. The footer of your newsletter says something else. Your bio focuses on yet another area. Your social media profiles are all over the map.

Add to this the fact that when another human asks, “What do you do for a living?,” you launch into an off-the-cuff gobbledygook-fest of unprepared blah blah that makes a Roger Goodell press conference sound transparent and to the point, and you’ve got a recipe for not being remembered.

And that’s a problem. Not a big, something-critical-is-on-fire-right-now problem, but a problem all the same.

Because while all the things you put out into the world regarding your business kind of relate to one another, it’s not precise or consistent enough for any casual passerby (and we are all casual passerbys relative to everyone else) to notice, much less remember.

So here’s what I recommend: Figure out your key phrase(s) and use them over and over again. Don’t be creative every time – boil it down, decide on the words and become a broken record.

If you’re a mortgage broker named Debbie Siegel who specializes in working with newly divorced women, say so on your web site, in your LinkedIn headline, in your bio and whenever you’re given the opportunity to explain what you do.

If your name is Richard Cohen and you help companies resolve conflict in the workplace, make sure this too is on your web site, profile page, business card, bio and everywhere else.

Here’s the bottom line. The lack of a consistent message is a subtle but highly damaging aspect of any marketing strategy that depends – as yours and mine do – on word of mouth.

And while it’s never going to be big enough or noisy enough to grab your attention today, not dealing with it will keep you hidden from the people and companies who might otherwise find and hire you.

Michael Katz
Founder
Blue Penguin Content Club

Michael Katz is Founder and Chief Penguin of the Blue Penguin Content Club, a membership site for solos and freelancers with an interest in creating great content. Learn more here: http://bluepenguincontentclub.com/signupAlso connect with him on LinkedIn.
Blue Penguin Content Club | @MichaelJKatz | More from Michael

// by Hal Shelton / Feb. 3, 2016 0 comments
staffing

A staffing business - be it for IT professionals, nurse practitioners, in-home health care workers, administrative assistants, accountants or other industry - is unique as it has two sets of customers. The first set of customers is the organizations that have need for temporary workers and have the ability to pay for them. The other set of customers is the temporary workers who have the appropriate skills that are needed. Each set has its own market place dynamics and challenges, and your business plan needs to address how you are going to attract and acquire both sets of customers—what are the two value propositions, competitive advantages, go-to market strategies and tactics, your own staffing plans, etc.

Your own experiences combined with market research are important to determine what type of staffing business you will have. Will it staff all positions in all industries, maybe certain positions like IT or accounting for all industries, or maybe all positions for a certain industry like health care or construction? Will you focus on seniors or college students for your temp workers? Research will show you the demand for temp services and the supply of qualified temp workers, so you can make an informed decision.

To start the business, you will likely begin as a solopreneur with some connections you have made. As you grow or if you plan to start in a bigger position, consider that the skills required to find customers who need temps are different than the skills required to find, on-board and manage a temp worker team. I know of two SCORE clients that successfully started a staffing business.  They had both been in the temp service business for several years. They decided to team and form their own company; Mr. Outside focused on identifying and securing the paying customers. Mr. Inside focused on identifying, vetting, securing, on boarding, scheduling and paying the temps. It was a great combination.

Specific items to consider in securing organizations that need temps:

  1.  Term of the assignment and fees; a contract
  2.  Description of the assignment, so you are in a position to match it with the right temp
  3.  Ability and implications of the customer not accepting your temporary worker and/or conducting their own interview
  4.  Not being able to hire away temps without paying you some fee
  5.  Who has responsibility for work errors and general liabilities

Specific items to consider in securing temps:

  1. As temps do not receive benefits from the companies to which they are assigned, staffing companies, as either a competitive advantage or as a competitive necessary, are making them employees of the firm and thus providing benefits. You will need to arrange and pay for these.
  2. Since you are responsible for matching temps with the assignments, you will need a vetting process to determine that the temp's skills and experiences are appropriate.
  3. As temps will come from many different experiences and will spend limited time in your office, you will need to find a way to develop and communicate a company culture. You will need both communications vehicles and an employee handbook.
  4. Consider using an outsourced payroll service
  5. For many temporary workers, these assignments are temporary until they can find a full-time position paying benefits. You will both want to encourage this—good competitive advantage—and protect yourself.
  6. You will want a location that facilitates temps coming to your office for interviews and training, so find quarters that are accessible by public transportation or have easy car access and parking.

Items related to both parts of the business:

  1. You will need several operating and financial systems to track each assignment and hours worked, to bill customers and to pay temps.
  2. You will need several types of insurances as a temp’s errors on an assignment often become your errors. They may also suffer injuries on assignment.

In addition to the operational metrics, most small businesses need to keep a sharp eye on managing their cash flow. This is really important in the staffing business, as many customer contracts call for monthly billing. This means you might receive the cash 60+ days after an assignment begins. On the other hand, most temp employees expect to get paid weekly. Therefore, you will need cash upfront to be able to pay employees before you are paid. The financial section of your business plan will help you figure out how much this might be.

Keep in mind that even with today’s ability to post jobs and review resumes on the web, HR departments are still utilizing staffing companies. Why is this? Mostly it is for the niche staffing companies might have developed, convenience and speed of getting a temp on the job. So as you put together your company start-up plans, make sure you can deliver on these factors.

Finally as you consider this business opportunity remember that it may be cyclical depending upon the economy. In robust economic times, individuals may be looking for full time jobs, not temp positions, while companies maybe hiring more full-time employees. In depressed times, there may be a greater supply of temp workers while companies might not be hiring at all. 

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 Rieva Lesonsky / Feb. 2, 2016 1 comments
train employees

Does looking at the “big picture” impact your success as a business owner? Apparently so, according to the results of a survey by TD Bank, which polled over 500 small business owners. Nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed say they started their own businesses in order to follow their vision — but they didn't stop there. Using visualization and vision boards (such as a bulletin board with pictures on it) gets results for a surprising number of entrepreneurs.

  • 63 percent of small business owners believe visualizing helps them map out and develop business plans.
  • 82 percent of small business owners who’ve used a vision board since startup say they have accomplished more than half their goals so far.
  • 76 percent of small business owners who’ve used vision boards and images to create their companies say their businesses are where they envisioned them.

Perhaps not surprisingly, since they've grown up with camera phones and selfies, Millennial entrepreneurs are more likely than other age groups to use vision boards when starting a business (59 percent) and developing business plans (89 percent).

In addition, 35 percent of small business owners use visuals to train their employees. Of those, 78 percent believe using visuals gives all or most of their workforce an accurate sense of the business’s goals and where the owner wants the business to be in the next five years.

The survey says imagining their financial and other goals makes people more confident about their abilities to achieve those goals. Respondents who keep photos, images or vision boards to remind them of their goals are nearly twice as confident about their ability to achieve those goals as those who don't use visuals (59 percent vs. 31 percent).

Why do visualizations and vision boards work so well? “Images connect us more immediately and emotionally to our personal and financial goals, and to our setting and achieving them,” says Dr. Barbara Nusbaum, the psychologist who partnered with TD Bank to analyze the results of the study. “[Images] help us in our thinking and moving toward these goals.”

Want to create your own vision board? Get a large piece of poster board or a bulletin board that will fit in a space where you can look at it every day. Gather magazines, personal photos, scissors and glue or pushpins. Give yourself an hour or two of uninterrupted quiet to look through the images and select those that resonate with you. There really aren't any rules about creating a vision board — the point is to gather images that inspire you, whether that's a red Ferrari, a house overlooking the beach or a rising sun. You can also gather words and phrases that remind you of your goals.

Experts say vision boards work because looking at images over and over reminds us of our goals and serves as an affirmation. Put your vision board in a place where it stands out and commands attention instead of getting lost in clutter.

Does cutting and pasting photos sound hopelessly old-fashioned? You can also create vision boards using apps or on Pinterest. The advantage of these methods: You can take your vision board wherever you go. The disadvantage: You'll have to remind yourself to look at it during the day. I personally prefer an “off-line” vision board myself, but the method really doesn't matter as long as it works for you. Check out this list of 10 vision board apps, and this Pinterest page with vision board samples.

Another resource that can help your business succeed both off-line and online is SCORE. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor who can help you achieve your vision by offering advice and consulting online or off.

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 Jeanne Rossomme / Feb. 1, 2016 0 comments
website questions

Websites for professional services firms are different than those in ecommerce or retail.  Your website is more like a suit than a factory.  You need to look up-to-date, professional and confident.

Don’t worry about making your website refresh more complicated than necessary.  Most visitors will have heard about you via a referral.  They want to feel you can get the job done and are easy to work with. Rattleback distills what you need into the three P’s:

  • Perspective: Does this firm have the expertise I need?
  • People: Do they look like people we could work with or would be interested in working with?
  • Past Experience: Do they have demonstrable experience solving problems similar in nature to mine?

There are many options regarding DIY website templates or you can hire a great designer. Use the following template to ensure your website “suit” fits and looks sharp:

Headline/Hero Image:  You need an image and/or text that quickly communicates what your firm is all about.  List images, phrases or your tagline.

Websites you like:  List websites from competitors or other professional services firms that you like.  Go through them from the perspective of a prospective client – what did you like? what was missing?

Navigation:  At the very least, you need the following sections:

  • About Us:  List your firm’s philosophy.  What are you proud of?  How do you conduct your engagements?
  • Team:  Use professional headshots that reflect your culture.  Ensure that bios communicate relevant experience (just list past work, education that are markers of expertise for your area).  But also add flavor that shows the personality of each person – that reflects “easy to work with”.
  • Services:  What services do you offer?  Make it as clear as possible and use the language that your clients use to describe what you do for them.  Do you have minimum engagements or a process?  Do you want to signal a price range to screen out the wrong type of client?
  • Clients:  Here you want to highlight how you got the job done for others.  Include quotes from past clients and industry tags.  Focus on outcomes. Case studies done well present 1) the impact of your work and 2) the experience or the way if felt for the client (relieving stress, uncertainty, etc.). 
  • Blog/Articles:  Your blog should demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership.  Here you can build trust and go into more detail on how you approach different problems.  Organize the content into categories that align with your services.
  • Contact Us:  Make it quick and easy to contact you.  After all, this is the real purpose of the site.
Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne