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Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.
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Small Biz Resource Tip: Logoworks.com

November 26th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Logoworks.com

Creating the logo for your company is as important as choosing your business name. Your logo needs to be original, meaningful and unforgettable all at once. Your best bet is to let the experts take over. Logoworks by HP employs many professional designers and gives you access to their expertise through its website. Pick the level of design you want (the least expensive gives you four original logo concepts and two revisions), fill out a detailed form describing your business and what you want your logo to express, and two or more designers will get to work on your logo. Everything can be done online or, if you purchase a higher-cost package, you can talk to the designers yourself.

5 Quick Tips for Boosting Your Small Business’s Holiday Retail Sales

November 26th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Black Friday, Cyber Monday—the Internet is abuzz with assessments of how profitable these crucial selling days will be for retailers this year, and what strategies work best to capture customers. It’s already Black Friday, but it’s not too late to profit from these 5 quick tips and tactics that can help your retail store sell more this holiday season.

  1. 1. Psych up your sales staff. Personalized service is one of the key differentiators a small retailer has to offer. When customers come to your store, make sure they’re greeted with a friendly smile and get helpful (but not pushy) service from your staff. Yes, this can be a tough time of year to be a retail employee—but your employees should be people who thrive on the challenge.
  2. Make it fun. One reason consumers still come out to bricks-and-mortar stores to shop (instead of going online) is for the fun and festive feeling. Make your store a happy place to be with music, décor, or small party favors for children. Host a visit from Santa or an open house with free hot apple cider and cookies.
  3. Be thoughtful. Little things mean a lot to tired and stressed-out holiday shoppers. Something as simple as placing a few comfy chairs around your store (where tired spouses can rest their feet) or making sure checkout clerks smile at customers in line and thank them for waiting can help.
  4. Clarify store policies. Returns are a key concern for holiday shoppers, who want to make sure their loved ones will be satisfied. Figure out a return policy that works for your business during this busy time (it may differ from your normal one). Then make sure the policy is politely and clearly conveyed to customers, whether by in-store signs, on your receipts or on flyers tucked into shopping bags. Customers are more likely to buy—and to buy more—if they feel confident they can return hassle-free.
  5. Give back. Get involved in community or charitable organizations. Give part of the proceeds from a certain item, or sales on a certain day, to a group that customers are likely to care about. Despite the economy, people are more likely to buy if they feel that their purchase is helping a cause.

The golden rule of holiday sales? It’s not all about discounts or deals. Think about how you like to be treated when you shop—and make sure your store treats customers the same way.

Image by Flickr user Kevin Dooley (Creative Commons)

Small Biz Resource Tip: Compete.com

November 25th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Compete.com

If you’re looking for a quick traffic overview of your website (or your competitor’s site), go to Compete.com and check it out. You can look at one site or plug in up to three sites for comparison. You can see your traffic on a chart month by month, your number of unique visitors and your rank overall on the Compete site for free. If you subscribe to one of their services, you’ll receive analytical reports, demographic metrics, where users go after visiting your site, what sites drive traffic to your competitors and more. Compete can also give you demographics on your visitors such as age, gender and income levels.

Small Biz Resource Tip: GiftCertificates.com

November 24th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

 

GiftCertificates.com

Stymied on what to give clients and vendors for the holidays this year? Or maybe you’re looking for employee rewards or incentive bonuses to acknowledge high performances? GiftCertificates.com has hundreds of merchant cards ready to purchase and mail out for you in the denomination of your choice. Choose from everything from movie tickets to restaurants to popular retailers. Not sure what stores or restaurants are in another state? You can also search by location. If you are seeking an employee or customer recognition solution, GiftCertificates.com can help you create a program that fits your needs.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Constant Contact

November 23rd, 2010 :: mhaubrich

ConstantContact.com

Contemplating creating an e-mail marketing program, an e-newsletter or a social marketing campaign? Constant Contact is one of the leading online marketing solution companies and for a very low monthly cost allows you to create e-mail newsletters and updates, online surveys and more. You can even send marketing e-mails from your smartphone. Try Constant Contact’s free 60-day trial offer and create an e-newsletter for your customers from one of the many templates. E-mail address can be stored directly at Constant Contact. Want to discuss your needs with someone in person? The company has representatives all over the country.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Rescue Time

November 22nd, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Rescue Time

Are you worried about what your employees are really doing during work hours? They look busy, but unless you look over their shoulder all day, they could be checking the latest fantasy sports stats, for all you know. Enter in Rescue Time. By installing an application on your employees’ computers, you can track what sites are being viewed and for how long. You can also customize the information you receive and not track certain sites you know are work-related. If this all sounds a bit “Big Brother” the site explains that when you let employees know from the beginning you have this application in place, it simply boosts accountability.

Small Biz Resource Tip: HealthCare.gov

November 19th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

 

Healthcare.gov

If you’re confused about the new Health Care Act, you’re not alone. What does it mean for your business and employees? In an effort to clear up much of the misunderstanding, the White House has created a website dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of the Act and provide updates on its progress. For example, starting in 2011, many preventive service exams, such as annual wellness visits, are free. The site also provides a timeline of when new provisions will be enacted and an interactive tool to find healthcare providers in your area. Sign up to get e-mail updates and you won’t miss a thing.

Small Biz Resource Tip: HARO

November 18th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

Helpareporter.com

You’ve got a great business you’re just itching to let people know about, but how do you grab some free publicity without hiring a PR agent? Visit Help a Reporter Out (or HARO for short) and get your business known about in minutes. Here’s how it works: Reporters need subjects and experts to interview for their stories; you need to get the word out about your business and your expertise. Once you sign up, HARO lets you view listings of what reporters are looking for and pitch them on your business’s story. Got a pitch to make about your business or your industry? You can submit those online, too, for reporters to view and consider.

What You Need to Know About SBA Loans

November 18th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Is your business looking for growth capital in a tight economy? A Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loan could be the answer to your problems. The SBA doesn’t directly make loans to small companies, but it guarantees a certain percentage of a loan that is made by participating lenders. This guarantee makes lenders more willing to take a chance on your business.

In fiscal year 2010, demand for SBA loans grew, and so did the number and dollar volume of loans. The SBA guaranteed more than $22 billion (54,833 loans) in loans to small businesses, compared to more than $17 billion (47,897 loans) in fiscal year 2009.

Businesses that have a track record of success, are looking to grow and have collateral to put up against a loan are good candidates for SBA loans. Here’s a closer look at the types of loans available.

7(a) Loans: The SBA’s biggest loan program, 7(a) provides financing for a variety of purposes. Under the recently passed Small Business Jobs Act, limits for 7(a) loans increased to $5 million. Within the 7(a) program are these specialized loan programs:

  • Express Programs: These streamline the financing application process and include SBA Express, Community Express (for businesses in disadvantaged communities) and Patriot Express (for businesses owned by military veterans). The Small Business Jobs Act temporarily increased the cap on SBA Express loans from $350,000 to $1 million for one year.
  • Export Loan Programs: Programs to boost small-business exporting include the Export Working Capital Program, the International Trade Loan Program and Export Express. The Small Business Jobs Act raised the limit on Export Express loans to $500,000, and raised the cap on International Trade and Export Working Capital loans to $5 million.
  • Rural Lender Advantage Program: For companies outside major urban areas, this program streamlines the application process to help small rural lenders make loans.
  • Special Purpose Loans Program: This encompasses business loans for small businesses with a wide range of specialized needs.

CDC/504 Loan Program: Offers long-term financing to buy fixed assets such as equipment and real estate. Loans are made by nonprofit organizations called Certified Development Companies (CDCs). The Small Business Jobs Act boosted the cap on 504 loans to $5 million; for manufacturers and certain energy-related projects, the cap is $5.5 million.

To find out more about SBA loan programs and learn how to prepare to seek financing, visit the SBA website.

 DISCLAIMER: The information posted in this blog is provided for informational purposes. Legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information presented here is not to be construed as legal or tax advice. Network Solutions recommends that you consult an attorney or tax consultant if you want professional assurance that the information posted, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular business.

Small Biz Resource Tip: DesksNear.Me

November 17th, 2010 :: mhaubrich

DesksNear.me

If you’re a frequent business traveler and you’re always searching for a desk to call your own when you’re out of town, check out DesksNear.me—there just might be an empty desk with your name on it. Plenty of big companies have empty desks in their offices (with coffee, restrooms, copiers, wireless, etc.) that are sitting empty just taking up space. DesksNear.me lists desks all over the world you can rent for a day if you need more than the local Starbucks. You don’t have to be traveling to use DesksNear.me, either. If you’re a home-based entrepreneur sick of the four walls of your house, working at a desk in an office once in a while might sound pretty inviting.