Small Businesses Add More Jobs Than Any Other Sector

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, small businesses added 117,000 jobs in June, a 60 percent increase over the first five months’ average of the year and the fastest growth since early 2012.  Small businesses accounted for more job growth than companies in any other category, making up the majority of the 281,000 jobs created.  Construction, professional services and transportation were the fastest-growing sectors.

Small Businesses Are Job Creators

photodune-1302392-woman-opening-a-retail-store-xs-e1347034122807Many people do not realize that small businesses are traditionally the largest job creators in the country.  They have suffered terribly as a result of the recent recession, however, and have not cracked the six-figure mark in monthly job gains for some time.

June was the second month in a row that small businesses contributed more than 40 percent of the nation’s job growth.

The ADP defines a “small business” as one with less than 50 workers.  However, if we expand the definition to that used by the federal government of fewer than 500 workers, small businesses actually accounted for 83 percent of the job growth.

Why Should We Support Small Business?

There is a tremendous amount of support for small businesses in the United States that is growing every day.  People are tired of the “big box store” mentality which, while lowering prices, often skimps on service and quality.

In fact, many people are rediscovering the beauty of shopping locally and supporting home town businesses.  This has led to more entrepreneurs being willing to take a chance on a new business, particularly one that is located close to home and serves friends and neighbors.

There are some industries that have always been “home grown” and probably will not change.  However, the retail industry, for example, has been very hard on small businesses.  With the growth in numbers evidenced by the recovering small business sector, it is important to remember that many of the areas where small business is bouncing back are those in which it is difficult to “nationalize” or create chain stores.  Local retail shops are still suffering, and fewer business people are willing to take a chance on a local retail store.

If we can support our homegrown businesses, even if they cost a little more, we will be able to help our friends and neighbors keep their stores and companies alive, even in the depths of a recession.

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Entrepreneurial Gold Is Not In the Fads

Entrepreneurs often believe that, in order to “strike gold,” they must be out ahead of the pack with the latest fads and flavors.  However, while some industries are popular for a short time, investing in the latest trend may not be the best way to make a sustainable income.

Instead, why not take a broader view and find a niche that needs to be filled?  This will allow you to serve a real need in your community or your world as well as lay the foundation for a lasting business opportunity.

How do you find a niche?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can I make life easier for a particular target group?  The elderly, working moms and others who need specific services are always looking for businesses to make life easier.  Think about those with a high disposable income in order to target people who will easily part with money to gain convenience.
  • How can I stand out with my company’s offerings?  Think about a market that is growing and ask yourself how you can do it better.  Many companies offer only the bare bones for their goods and services, so if you can do it better or differently, you are more likely to get noticed.
  • How can I teach people how to do something better?  Sometimes it is not about re-inventing the wheel but about teaching users how to drive.  When you can target a group of people who are doing something rather unsuccessfully and show them a better way to do it, you have the basis for a lasting business.
  • How can I do something I already enjoy?  If you like to do something, the chances are that others do, too.  Giving people the means to do things they enjoy is always guaranteed to be popular, and if you can find a way to recruit new participants you create a never-ending stream of customers.
  • How can I be better than the competition?  There are numerous stories of companies that became a household name simply because they saw a way to be better than everyone else doing the same thing.  People are willing to pay for quality goods and services, so if you do it better than others you are likely to see continuing business.

Remember that being an entrepreneur is not just about seizing business opportunities.  It is also about doing what you love and being proud of the goods and services you sell!

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Transitioning Small Businesses Into Summer

Blair StoverIf you own a small business, you are probably already aware that seasons have an impact on how you operate.  Even if you are not in what is considered a “seasonal” business, the seasons probably have some type of impact on your company.  For most businesses, winter and summer have the largest effect, although the particular season you consider “busy” and “slow” may vary depending on your type of small business.

Summer—Fast or Slow?

As you consider summer, it is important to think about and plan for a busy or slow season.  For some small businesses, summer is a very slow time, such as ski resorts, school supply stores and businesses providing services to colleges.  These businesses may benefit from planning to offer alternative services during the summer or discounting services during the slow season.

Other businesses will do most or all of their trade during the summer months.  While this is not as common in the South or on the West Coast, there are still many areas in the Northeast where business owners must survive on the money they make from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

If summer is your busy time, be sure to plan for extra staff and supplies.  You want to be ready for the crowds so that you can make plenty of money to carry you through the lean season ahead!

Summer—A Time for Feeling Good

One thing to remember if you run a summer-based business is that, for most Americans, summer is about having fun.  Most of us are taking a break from school and work and gathering with friends and families for relaxed, casual enjoyment.

Summer is a great time for businesses that cater to less formal pastimes.  If you sell goods or services that are focused on summer, be sure to capitalize on the “feel good” attitude most people take to this season.

Finally, be sure that you begin planning early.  It is very important for you to focus your attention on getting ready for summer as early as January!  You should take time to check inventory or processes, making sure that you are ready for the coming rush.  Set up good systems with your employees and run them, then re-run them, before the crowds show up.

Spend some time getting ready for summer and you will find that your business will improve!

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What Makes a Small Business Tick?

Blair StoverThere has been a great deal of talk recently about small businesses:  how they are formed, how they should be treated in the tax codes, whether they should be required to purchase health insurance for their employees or how they will keep going in the face of a struggling economy.  One thing that many so-called “experts” ignore, however, is the fact that small businesses have always existed, in the best of times and the worst.  What makes a successful small business keep going day-to-day and what separates a successful business owner from one who folds?

Many people do not realize that a successful small business venture is really a series of small decisions that add up to big results—for the good or the bad!  Here are a few examples of how small decisions made every day can impact your small business in a big way and result in ultimate success for you.

  • Start where you are.  Too many people borrow far too much money to start “at the top” of their small business field, then ultimately end up failing.  In everything you do, ask yourself, “How is this going to benefit my business?”  Set reasonable, reachable goals and then achieve them before moving on to bigger things.
  • Be concrete.  Successful business owners know the secret of being concrete in all of their goal setting.  They never say, “I want to make more money.”  Instead, their statements are more like, “I want to increase revenue this year by 20 percent.”  Not only do they make concrete goals, they measure their success periodically by seeing how they have met, exceeded or failed to meet those goals.
  • Analyze.  Every business has failures.  The question is not whether you will make mistakes but whether you will learn from them.  If you lose a client, miss a deadline or have some other catastrophe, you must be able to look honestly at yourself and determine why it happened.

These may not be the “fancy” characteristics of business owners, but they are the ones that work!

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What Makes a Small Business Tick?

There has been a great deal of talk recently about small businesses:  how they are formed, how they should be treated in the tax codes, whether they should be required to purchase health insurance for their employees or how they will keep going in the face of a struggling economy.  One thing that many so-called “experts” ignore, however, is the fact that small businesses have always existed, in the best of times and the worst.  What makes a successful small business keep going day-to-day and what separates a successful business owner from one who folds?

Many people do not realize that a successful small business venture is really a series of small decisions that add up to big results—for the good or the bad!  Here are a few examples of how small decisions made every day can impact your small business in a big way and result in ultimate success for you.

 

  • Start where you are.  Too many people borrow far too much money to start “at the top” of their small business field, then ultimately end up failing.  In everything you do, ask yourself, “How is this going to benefit my business?”  Set reasonable, reachable goals and then achieve them before moving on to bigger things.
  • Be concrete.  Successful business owners know the secret of being concrete in all of their goal setting.  They never say, “I want to make more money.”  Instead, their statements are more like, “I want to increase revenue this year by 20 percent.”  Not only do they make concrete goals, they measure their success periodically by seeing how they have met, exceeded or failed to meet those goals.
  • Analyze.  Every business has failures.  The question is not whether you will make mistakes but whether you will learn from them.  If you lose a client, miss a deadline or have some other catastrophe, you must be able to look honestly at yourself and determine why it happened.

These may not be the “fancy” characteristics of business owners, but they are the ones that work!

 

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How to Excel This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us. Small business owners understand that the holiday season generally represents half of annual sales. Thus, the last quarter of the year is a make-or-break season for most businesses. Blair Stover has strategies that can help you excel this holiday season.

Merry Christmas!
(Photo credit: Kelvin Servigon)

Most businesses experience this holiday busy season, it is not just for retail business. Personal services, such as salons experience the holiday rush. Even lawyers, accountants, and other business-service providers often find their busiest time to be during the holiday rush. The holidays seem to make everyone busier and that will likely apply to your business as well.

With the holidays closing in, it is time to get out there and present your services or products. Anything that may be given as a gift, including services, should be presented to potential customers as soon as possible. Keep in mind that many consumers are already getting their holiday shopping underway. In fact, research shows that 39% of people start their holiday shopping prior to Halloween, 40% begin in November, while only 21% wait until December to start.

This year, shoppers may begin even earlier. With the first night of Hanukkah being the night before Thanksgiving, this is a pretty big deal. Hanukkah has not begun this early since 1899, and it typically aligns more closely with Christmas. Because of this, Jewish shoppers will be completing their shopping at a much earlier date than in the past.

In addition to this, only 26 full shopping days will exist between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the later Thanksgiving date this year. This is a more condensed shopping season, with possibly more frazzled customers.

So get out there and start getting your products and services into the market, as this holiday season is not only shorter but likely to be even more crazy than the last.

 

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5 Tips to Improve Your Startup Pitch

Blair StoverYour start-up pitch is your foot in the door and a strong start-up pitch is imperative to your business. Blair Stover has some simple ways to improve your start-up pitch.

First, call mom. Explain your startup pitch to your grandma or your mom. Try your pitch on them. If they don’t get it you need condense and find a different way to explain your concept in an easy to understand way.

Once you have your wording down, record yourself giving your pitch. Review the tapes and assess your pace of speech, tone, and facial expressions. Seeing yourself can help you pinpoint nuances you were not aware of and improve.

Put yourself in the hot-seat. Pitch to someone who you know will say no. These skeptics will ask you the most challenging questions. Keep your pitch the same as you usually would. This is the best way to find out what the real questions you will be asked by real targets.

Also, practice with strangers. Strangers who are not in your industry will be the best. Try your pitch on the person waiting in line at the grocery store, the coffee shop, or your neighbor on an airplane. Once people begin asking to hear more about that, you will know your pitch is getting better.

Put yourself to the test. At the next event or party, ask your new friend to explain what your company does to the next person to join your group. If they are not able to give a clear and concise pitch, you must not have been very clear in your pitch either.

 

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Get Your Team Going Again: 4 Tips to Help Motivate

Blair StoverBeing in charge of a group, whether it is a small team or a massive set of employees, means that you have to be on top of your game at every turn. Think of your group as a professional sports team – they can hit rough patches just like anyone else. The key to getting them back on track is focusing on deeper issues.

As Blair Stover explains below, asking the following questions when problems arise in your group may help get things back on track and productive once more.

Goals: Make sure your team knows the common goal and your group is all for it. If the team doesn’t see a connection between the goal and the tasks they perform it will cause conflict quickly.

Roles: Documenting and defining your team’s role is very important in the grand scheme of things. Expectations have to be consistent and the authoritative level has to be clear for each role. Make sure that each team member embraces his or her roles.

Procedures: Make sure each procedure is clearly defined, communicated and documented. This will help the team share info, coordinate hand-offs, make decisions, prioritize work, resolve conflict and review their work.

Relationships: Make sure that each one of your team members respects each other when it comes to their job. They do not have to like one another when it’s quitting time, but when they are on the clock everything has to run like clockwork. Make sure trust is there and each one knows and appreciates each other’s knowledge and work skills.

 

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Would You Borrow From PayPal?

PayPal has jumped into the small business loans mix. This is welcome news for many who have been victim to mounting interest and constricted bank credit, and for many PayPal’s newest venture may be just the answer to that start-up financing problem. Blair Stover explores this alternative to traditional banking.

Image representing PayPal as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

This new lending program is known as PayPal Working Capital. This program offers 90,000 of the company’s merchants a borrowing option of as much as 8% of their PayPal annual volume. This does, however, max out at $20,000.

Charges are repaid as a set fee in the form of a deduction of 10-30% of incoming receipts automatically. This fee continues until the balance is paid in full. Fees are lower based on the greater percentage of payback. Once the balance of one loan is paid in full, merchants are free to apply for a new loan as often as they like.

What’s in it for PayPal? The company keeps itself well-secured as they only offer credit to existing customers. Such customers have already proven a healthy cash flow to the company. Financial records of this are readily available to the company. This program is easy for the borrower and the lender to implement and understand.

The entrepreneur’s cost is presented as a singular number. There are no additional fees for loan set up and there are no fees for prepayments. As repayment is set up in a recurring automatic deduction of incoming funds, management of the repayment is managed for the entrepreneur. Late payments and forgotten payments will be a nonissue as PayPal is already in control of incoming receipts for the merchant.

So what do you think: is PayPall Working Capital an option you’ll be exploring?

 

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Tips for Hiring the Best Fit

After reading Gallup’s annual State of the American Workplace report, one finds that the numbers are less than encouraging. Nearly 70 percent of employees are actively disengaged or are simply disengaged from their jobs. Blair Stover cautions that some of your employees may be among them. However, it does not have to be that way.

Some of the disengagement can be accounted to personal issues. Looking closely, however, at disengagement inside the workplace itself, the main reason is found in employee perception. Employee concept of where one should be and the actuality of where they are in their career often leads to disharmony.

To work on avoiding disengagement, recognize the stock pattern. Listen to your employees. Thank them for their work. Provide competitive perks. If you can, attempt to be flexible about work times and working from home for each employee.

The most important step to take is to hire employees who will walk into the position engaged and excited to be there. This is the type of employee who is more likely to stay in the position and remain that way in the future.

Look for evidence of engagement patterns in those you hire, and the jobs they have held before. Some people are just driven to work harder than others, regardless of the job they hold. This will be evident to some degree when you meet he person. But, more so, when you check into references. A worker who leaves a trail of fans will have their drive and desire to thank for it.

 

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