Issues That Small Businesses May Face in 2014

Small businesses in the year 2014 are expected to face a few more crucial issues that would play a critical role in running of companies. It won’t be wrong to say that in the coming year most of the small businesses are heading with plenty of uncertainty. Slow hiring and changing trends too are expected to affect the small businesses. Not to point out to the negative scenario, small businesses in the coming year may have to face implications and complications regarding the health care law as well.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

Considering the current scenario, uncertainty is the bane of most of the small businesses. The only rational response will be dependent on pulling the horns and literally slowing down. Chances are that the small businesses may or may not get enough encouragement from the economy. Not everything is gloomy.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues that the small businesses are likely to face in the year 2014.

Taxes

Tax makers are still hanging this issue and we would interestingly call it fiscal cliff. Not to mention, budget cuts and the increase in taxes are also going to have a good impact on the pace of growth for the small businesses. Even if an interesting agreement is reached, small businesses may still struggle to thrive on the kind of certainty they have been expecting since long. We are sure to discuss on the issue every year and it is an issue that is going to take time to resolve. If the scenario doesn’t change for good then the negotiations and uncertainty are sure to raise other issues in the coming year.

Now the good news is that you can expect the deduction any time. For the time being, it can be said that business owners should not just focus on getting the big break of their corporate life. Tax rates are going to pose huge changes for the small companies that are looking to making bigger investments. All these are going to affect the retailers and the other small businesses in the process, particularly the ones that are involved in selling directly to public.

Shortage of skilled workers

Most of the small businesses are struggling from this issue, they know how tough it is to find the skilled workers in the market. They hardly have the desired talents willing to join them to fill in some of the crucial job positions in their companies. Most of the manufacturing companies are looking for high-tech skills and settling for anything less is not convincing to them.

Few job positions require exhaustive training but a basic skill set is required and unfortunately small businesses are made to compromise on that. Since the trends in working style and changes in technology are becoming evident, business owners are finding it really hard to find the qualified workers; issues are expected to continue in the year 2014.

Health care

Health care is definitely one of the other resources in line that are making things uncertain for the small business in the upcoming year. Health care laws in the coming time are going to affect us all and more importantly, the small businesses.

Most of the small businesses should consider devoting some time understanding and analysing all aspects of law relating to health care. If they are planning to expand overseas then understanding the same on the global level should have an impact on the running of the business too.

Lot of small business owners are still unsure on the fact whether they will have their states creating some forms of exchanges or whether they will be required to go a bit into the national system. On the other hand, they are still going to be unsure about how these changes are going to affect the costs.

Other issues that the small businesses in the year 2014 are going to face are concerns relating with onshoring and lending. It’s time for small business to gear up and pull up their socks because the market of 2014 is going to bring them plenty of challenges. If they can cover up for their losses and focus on the drawbacks, they are sure to reach the pinnacle of success in no time. However, sustaining the elevated position is going to be yet another challenge.

About the Author: This article is contributed by Samme who is associated with a leading UK based supplier of Office Cable Protectors – CableProtector.co.uk. Click here to visit the Office Cable Protectors landing page.

 

Four Ways To Spend Much Less On Your Small Business

An essential part of running a small business is constantly finding new ways to reduce costs, keeping spending to a minimum. Initially, you may be thinking that by spending less you will have to make sacrifices, damaging your business in the process. However, reducing spending does not always have to equate to a loss. Ultimately, removing unnecessary expenses in your small business will increase your budget, freeing up money that you can invest in other parts of your business.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

Online Marketing

More often than not, marketing costs take up a huge amount of budget, particularly for small businesses that invest in offline methods such as direct mail. However, by simply switching or concentrating more on online marketing, you could save yourself a great deal of money, while targeting a much larger market. There are various ways you can market your business online, all of which are often low-cost and very effective. Essentially, you will be paying less for a more
successful method. You can start by creating a profile for your business on one of the many social media platforms. It is free and a great way of connecting to your customers while building up a strong following. Another idea to market your small business online is to start a blog that contains content related to your products or services.

Go Green, Go Paperless

Without realising it, a lot of money can be wasted away on paper through the sheer cost of ink, supplies and postage; not to mention the endless waste of paper. By eliminating the use of paper or even just minimising you can significantly reduce spending. Going digital is said to save a great deal of money, but not only that, it also creates a more organised working environment and is a lot more secure than having a paper trail. You can make the transition by opting for digital invoices, filing information on the computer and completely replace snail mail with email. As well as cutting spending you are
also helping the environment, which is always a positive thing.

Telephone and Web Conferencing

As a small business, spending large amounts of money on conferences, presentations and meetings really will make a significant dent in your budget, as there are a great deal of expenses involved, including travel and food. To reduce the costs, opting for a teleconference or web conference service is a great idea as you will spend a lot less for a good service than you ever would with face-to-face costs. Additionally, using such a service will allow you to connect to colleagues and clients globally.

IT Managed Service

As hiring an IT guy is a luxury to many small business, using managed services is proven to be a wise decision; you have access to IT expertise at a fraction of costs.

Managing Your Team

As your business develops so will your team, but it is essential that you manage this process carefully if you want to save money. Within a small business you need to ensure that you are regularly assessing your team’s productivity, making sure that most of your employees’ time is spent on value creating activities. Also, there are way
s that you can get the job done without having to hire an extra employee, including using interns and freelancers.

How Will The Affordable Care Act Effect Small Businesses?

If you are a small business owner, you’ve probably heard about the Affordable Care Act. Enacted into law in 2010, the ACA’s aim is to make healthcare more affordable and accessible to individuals in the US. While many view the act as controversial, others appreciate that the government is making an effort to improve the quality of care for the country. Whatever side of the political fence you’re on, there are a few things that you need to know about the Affordable Care Act if you own a small business. Here are four ways that the ACA may affect your company and some suggestions for navigating it.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

New way to find the right plan for your business

In the past, shopping for health insurance was neither fun nor easy. The Affordable Care Act has created a mechanism that allows small business owners to simplify the process. The Small Business Health Options Program (or SHOP) is essentially a health insurance clearinghouse where small busine
sses and individuals can compare plans to find one that meets their needs. While business owners are not required to use the SHOP exchange to purchase their health insurance coverage, supporters of the Act argue that it will simplify the process considerably.

No coverage? Facing potential penalties

One of the biggest implications of health care reform that has small business owners concerned is potential penalties for not providing adequate coverage. Often, the cost of health insurance is prohibitive for some small businesses, so small business owners don’t necessarily provide adequate healthcare coverage. However, under the Affordable Care Act, small businesses that employ over 50 people may be subject to costly penalties. So if you employ over 50 people and do not provide proper coverage, take note. You could be facing thousands of dollars in penalties moving forward if you don’t purchase health insurance for your employees.

Spe
cial tax credits for small business

To offset the cost of health insurance for small businesses, the government is offering tax credits if your business meets certain metrics. For example, businesses that employ 30 or fewer people can potentially receive up to 35% in tax credits off the cost of insurance premiums this year. Moving forward, the same businesses can receive up to 50% in tax credits. One important thing to keep in mind is that the tax credits will only be available for those companies where average salary is lower than $55,000 annually.

Considering a wellness program

If you had been thinking about creating a corporate wellness program for your business, now is the time. Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses that do not currently have corporate wellness programs may be eligible to apply for grant funding that can help get the program up and running. These grants are meant to encourage business owners to implement these changes
and improve the health of employees over the long term. So if you’ve been considering developing a corporate wellness program, it’s a good time to get started!

The implantation of the Affordable Care Act means several changes for small businesses. The ACA simplifies the process of shopping for insurance by providing small business owners and individuals with access to the Small Business Health Options Program. Some businesses may be hit with hefty penalties for not providing adequate coverage, so it’s a good idea to start shopping! Tax breaks are also available for businesses that meet certain criteria, and companies may choose to apply for grants to help them create corporate wellness initiatives. No matter which end of the political spectrum you fall, these changes are being implemented across the country. So small business owners should be paying attention.

About the Author: Elizabeth Alton is a freelance business and technology writer. She covers trends related to small business, entrepreneurs, the evolving digital landscape, and writes for Engagement Health about the latest trends in employee wellness programs.

The 5 Best Budgeting Shortcuts For Small Businesses

If you have just purchased or opened a small business, you may know your trade well, but when it comes to budgeting, your skill set could be lacking. If you are like most small business owners, budgeting is your least favorite managerial task. That is because budgeting is not an exact science – especially during changing and challenging economic conditions. In fact, you may see your actual budget vary significantly from your planned budget during economic difficulties.

License: Creative Commons image source
License: Creative Commons image source

When there is a downturn, and you need to tighten your financial belt, you will need to re-evaluate your budget and make some changes. Read on for five simple tips that will help your small business put together a top-notch budget.

1. Emphasize Customer Service

During rough times, your business may not gain many new customers. In order to hold on to those you do have, you will need to provide excellent customer service. Outshine your competitors to retain the sales you already have after the economy improves.

2. Cut Costs

When times are tight and cash is needed to advertise, pay a crucial bill, or capitalize on an opportunity, cutting costs is essential. Take a look at which budget items can be controlled or altered – put off making purchases until the next billing cycle, or ask creditors for a change in payment terms.

3. Talk with Suppliers and Clients

When difficulties loom, talk with your company’s suppliers about renegotiating your credit terms If you have had a good relationship, chances are that the vendor will work with you to lower your minimum payments, adjust a due date or reduce your interest rate. At the same time, keep in contact with your own clients to ensure they pay you on time. Call any clients that have gotten behind on their invoices, and encourage them to get their accounts current. Consider offering a discount to clients for paying their bill in full now. Check your books and make sure you are billing all your clients in a timely manner.

4. Issue Employees Business Prepaid Credit Cards

Many small businesses allow some flexibility in what their managers, representatives and salespeople can charge to the company. Rein those costs in by providing your employees with business prepaid credit cards and establish some hard and fast rules about what they can be used for. Choose a plan that allows instant funding from your mobile device or computer when expenses come up, rather than depositing lump sums in advance that may tempt spending. Track the business prepaid credit cards through your computer or mobile device, to monitor how the funds are being spent.

5. Reduce Administrative Expenses

To keep your budget on track, slash your office expenses and administrative costs. Eliminate company travel and entertainment as much as possible. While it is smart to buy office supplies such as envelopes or toilet paper in bulk for maximum discounts when finances are good, when budgeting gets tight, only spend when absolutely necessary. Cut back or eliminate expense accounts, membership fees, lunches out, unnecessary services. Do your own maintenance and mow your company’s lawn yourself. Limit long distance telephone calls. Consider every possible way to cut corners and lower costs without seriously compromising your business. Request employee input into which expense areas could be reduced.

Bottom line – small business budgeting is a fairly easy but essential process that will allow you to forecast and match your current and future income and revenue to your monthly expenses. Ensure that enough money is available to keep your operation up and running, to expand, compete, and to guarantee a solid emergency fund.

About the Author: Marilyn Smith specializes in covering the latest news of interest to small business owners, including business prepaid cards.

The Many Hats of Small Business Ownership

Small Business Owners Wear Many Hats… One at a Time.

As you launch your own business, you inevitably will “wear many hats.” Of course, day-to-day operations will require frequent changes of hat and headgear, but you always must remember, when you don more than one hat at a time, you just look and act silly. More importantly, you absolutely cannot change your mind each time you change your hat. Change-up the millinery as circumstances demand, but make sure each new brim contributes to building the business by commanding customers’ loyalty.

Pat on his Mac (next to another Mac)
Image by Kevin Galens / Flickr

Maintain Your Priorities and Solve Urgent Problems

Before you celebrate your grand opening, take time to examine your entire hat collection, assessing the relative importance of each. The collection surely will include marketing, public relations, advertising, accounting, finance, IT, forecasting and planning; as the business grows, you will add personnel management and training. Day by day, your profit-and-loss, your market share and the quality of your competition may influence your hat selection, but do not allow exigency or expedience to prevail over your genuine priorities. Baseball caps and hard-hats come and go, but your dedication to building the business persists. Therefore, go to the hat tree with a realistic sense of what to wear in the moment and throughout the day.

Customer service always comes first

Inventory management and marketing always seem urgent, but they never become so urgent you cannot set them aside and devote your undivided attention to a customer’s needs. You always have known this cardinal principle of good business, but the pace, distraction and stress of running a one-man-show may cause temporary lapses of memory. A well-chosen customer service cap will keep you safe.

Become exceptionally skilled at problem-solving

Skilled problem-solvers develop their powers of discernment, and they use those powers to determine which problems they can solve with their own resources and which require professional intervention. In order to remain focused on building your business, call-in qualified people to fix urgent problems outside your areas of expertise. If you cannot fix a toilet, call a plumber. If you cannot do taxes, call a CPA. In general, if you cannot see cause and solution in a problem’s symptoms, call an expert.

Dedicate your best efforts to building your business

Choose your hat with consummate respect for your own time, talent and temperament. If you have exceptional marketing and public relations skills, devote lots of time and energy to using them in service of boosting revenues. Conversely, if you have little accounting skill, devote even more effort to marketing so that you generate enough revenue to hire a bookkeeper. Even as you wear your PR hat, though, keep scanning the horizon for customers in need of your special attention.

Take time for reflection

No need to hire a small business consultant. Your conscience and intuition will tell you exactly where you went wrong, and they will outline the best ways to fix your mistakes. Take time each day for serious reflection, asking three essential questions: First, find courage to ask, “Where did I go wrong?” Then summon insight and imagination as you ask, “What can I do better?” Third, reward yourself as you consider, “What did I do well, and how can I do more of it?” Record your thoughts in a journal. Make journal-writing the last item on each day’s to-do list, using it to complete the day’s business and anticipate what comes next.

Add a mortarboard to your hat collection

When your journal routinely calls your attention to a big vacancy in your hat collection, fill the empty spot by going back to school. Several reputable online universities offer advanced business degrees in entrepreneurship. Because you take just one class at a time and you complete the work online, you can focus and study according to your schedule. Andrew Shigeru, an MBA student at Ashford University, exults, “I immediately can apply the benefits of each class session and every discussion in the next day’s work. I feel myself becoming more skilled and professional literally every day.” (interview. 2012. July 7)

Recruit dedicated staff

As your business grows, promote staffing to second place on your list of priorities. When you recruit devoted employees to wear hats that do not fit you well or complement your complexion, you relieve much of your stress and gain time for wearing your own favorite hat, the one that always has held a little magic and inspired your best work.

About the Author: Kelly Smith is a full-time writer for higher ed blogs and journals nationwide with a focus on online education opportunities. Several schools offer online degrees in strategic management, including New England College and Quinnipiac University.

Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Last

They say that if you want to earn unlimited income, you have to start your own business. No wonder that there are a lot of people who immediately resign from their jobs. Yes, that can be a great plan if you want financial freedom. However, it’s not that easy. You have to think twice, in fact you have to think a lot of times. If you will not plan your business right, you’ll end up bankrupted.

As much as you want to become your own boss, you need to prepare properly. You have to know the risks involved.

In this article, I will briefly explain some of the reasons why more than half of small businesses die.

They are too excited. This is one of the most common reasons why businesses falter in no time. We want to open up our own business even without careful research. Establishing your own trade doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, some successful business owners spent months, even years of preparation, so they can create a long running industry.

Your adrenalin might be at its peak. But don’t let that excitement push you to start something which you aren’t prepared for.

They usually join the ‘business trend’. It’s a big No for you to become a ‘copy – cat’. One business idea might be good in some locations. However, it might not be the best for you. You have to be original. You need to have fresh ideas.

Trends or fads are not forever. Are you going to establish a business that is just for a period of time? I don’t think you like that, right?

out of business
Image: AR McLin / Flickr

They lack promotion. In promoting your business, you have to be aggressive and personal. Don’t take this for granted. How can your business grow if no one knows it? I believe that most business fail in the first few months because they were not able to advertise it properly. You don’t have to spend so much. You can just send messages to your friends and I’m sure they would be willing to share the news with their friends too. Aside from that, you can maximize the social media. It would be nice if you will create your own business page in Facebook. You can also make a twitter account. There are so many ways to promote your business. Invest time for it if you want to be successful.

They don’t keep track of the inventory. Most business owners are busy counting their money. The problem is, they don’t check their inventory. That is very important. A lot of my friends who started their businesses thought that they were doing well only because they have money at the end of the day. But after few months, they realized that the money at hand is not equal to their inventory. And with further investigation, they found out that a clerk stole some items from them.

This can be avoided if you are strict in checking your inventory. Make it a regular habit.

They are not hands on. Even if you are the boss, it doesn’t mean that you have the license to be lousy. You shouldn’t depend the success of your business to your staff. You have to be on top of the game. Being a boss has a lot of responsibilities and being a couch potato is not one of those.

Now, you know what are the worst things you can do for your business. Plan carefully and be consistent so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor in no time.

About the Author: Toni Okeson writes for a great welding school site. If you want to start a career or a small stick welding business, you should try reading their resources.

How SEO Can Help Your Small Business

When running a business website, you want your site to get as much traffic as possible to increase the chances of making sales. Since traffic is ultimately the life blood of your online business, figuring out how to increase this traffic should be priority number one for your business. By engaging in some good SEO practices, you may be able to increase your site’s traffic without spending a lot of extra money along the way.

Search Engine Traffic

When you use leading SEO services or methods to improve your site’s rankings in the search engines, you may be able to increase your traffic substantially. The nice thing about using this method is that the traffic can keep coming for months or years without having to pay for it again and again. By comparison, if you use paid traffic methods like pay-per-click marketing, you’ll have to pay for each visitor that makes his way to your site. This means that there is a lot of pressure to convert each visitor that comes to your site. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing away a lot of money every day on this type of Internet marketing.

With search engine traffic, it keeps coming again and again without a lot of expenses on your part. You may have to occasionally pay for more search engine optimization work until your site gets up a certain level of traffic. This is usually much cheaper than having to pay for each individual visitor that comes to your site.

Converting More Sales

When you work with a good search engine optimization service, you may also be able to convert more sales on your site. When visitors come to your site, they want to find what they’re looking for. If your site ranks highly for a given search term and then you sell something related to that search term on your site, this will increase the odds of a sale when the visitor arrives. If your site is not optimized properly, visitors might find it for terms that are not really that relevant to what you offer. This leads to customers finding your site when they’re actually looking for something else. When this happens, they will be much less likely to make a purchase or fill in the form that you have to capture their contact information.

Considerations

If you want to take your small business website to the next level, engaging in some search engine optimization can make a big difference. It might seem costly on the front end, but you’re making a long-term investment in the success of your business overall. By the time you’re done, your site may be receiving loads of free traffic from the search engines and your sales may be much better off overall.

How to Save Money on Business Printing Expenses

When you’re running a business, you have a lot of financial burdens on your plate, from payroll to office supplies. One of the costs in almost any industry is the cost of printing up marketing materials. Whether your business requires brochures, posters, business cards and more or you simply need to have menus printed for your restaurant, the costs of printing can add up quickly. However, there are ways you can save money on your marketing materials. Continue reading How to Save Money on Business Printing Expenses