Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For the holidays ...

Ho-Ho-Ho!!  We'll be taking a break from blogging through the holidays ..... we know you're busy with business, decorating, shopping, and most importantly, celebrating with your family. We think you deserve the rest and time to meditate and prepare for the year ahead.  
God bless you ... every one

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Entrepreneurs and Technology …… In 2014, They Can’t Be Separated

Carol A. Daly, Business Consultant
© November, 2014

I participated in a professional discussion group recently where the point was painfully made that it’s still not completely understood that technology and entrepreneurship are no longer exclusive of one another.   At this point and forever into the future, business development, technology production, and app development will be joined for better or worse, and we cannot deny that.  You don’t go backwards from technological progress – it’s just not an option.  If you’re going to be competitive in business you need to embrace what will certainly be commonplace in every field in the near future; and you need to include planning to keep up with technology trends in your long-term business plan.  Facts to be considered:

In the field of healthcare: Technology is now being used routinely to keep doctors connected in order to better refer patients for specialized care; to optimize care coordination and medical results between various healthcare providers; medical diagnoses are available online through video conferencing; artificial skin is being developed through the creation of laser stem cells in 3D printers; and in at least one case I’ve heard about, a doctor has utilized technology in a way that even Google may not have foreseen, using the Google Glass while in surgery.  While some see Google Glass as an expensive “toy,” this doctor saw a window of opportunity.

In the restaurant field:  Many restaurants now offer customers the opportunity to order take-out online for delivery or pick-up; some also offer an app for your cell phone to make reservations quickly and easily; upscale restaurants in large metropolitan areas offer touch screen digital menus at each table that allow you to order, request your bill, pay the bill and even fill in a review of your dining experience right there at your table with no assistance from a waiter.   All of that is for the convenience of the customer.  The benefit for the restaurant owner is also being noted as they’re able to program their technology with up-sell opportunities like making appetizer and dessert recommendations complete with hard-to-resist photos, and provide a better over-all experience for diners, creating more word-of-mouth referrals and better reviews.

In the grocery/retail industry:  It would be difficult not to notice the changes that have taken place in the retail environment already, although the changes have come about incrementally so as not to overwhelm shoppers.   And customers have embraced them completely for the most part.  From the customers’ perspective, it started with branded in-store discount cards, then moved on to easy debit/credit card payment options, then on to email marketing and newsletters offering coupons based on those items you buy regularly (which they identify through the use of your in-store discount card).  They have not only identified a target market through technology, but taken it right down to targeting individuals’ personal shopping habits.   For the past 15 years at least, retailers have been selling online and shipping all over the world.  That’s not even news anymore.  And more recently, customers also have the option of ordering specialty groceries online for shipment by the case; or ordering from some local stores online for pick up on the way home.   It doesn’t get much easier than that.

In the world of baking and confections:  Changes are made in this industry every day, but most go unnoticed by the end users of the products.   Bakery giants can point out new equipment that speeds production or allows for longer-lasting freshness; or advances in producing specialty products for ethnic and foreign markets.  But something that really caught my attention recently was the use of a new piece of equipment … the Sugar Lab from 3D Systems.  This is an actual printer designed to create ornate three-dimensional sugar designs for cake toppers, unusual sugar cube designs, and other sweet confections, sour candies and geometric peppermints that satisfy both the sweet tooth and the eye.   Some of these candy samples are now available in limited quantities through Cubify.com, which sells a variety of 3D printers to create everything from foods to toys. 

In agriculture:   Coming to a farm near you soon!   Business Insider reports that big changes are underway in this crucially important industry.
  • Air & soil sensors are being introduced in 2015 to enable a real time monitoring of farm, forest or body of water conditions; 
  • Equipment telematics are expected to go mainstream in 2016 and be financially viable in 2017.  This will allow mechanical farm equipment (such as tractors) to send a warning that a failure is likely to occur soon.
  •  Livestock biometrics means that collars with GPS, RFID and biometrics can automatically identify and relay vital information about livestock in real time.  This is still in a developmental stage, but is expected to be mainstreamed and financially viable by 2020.
  • Crop sensors:   This high-resolution sensor can inform application equipment of the correct amounts of fertilizer needed for conditions.  Optical sensors or drones are able to identify crop health across the field (i.e.: using infra-red light).  These will be scientifically viable in 2015, mainstream in 2018; and be financially viable in 2019.
  •  Infrastructure health sensors: Can be used for monitoring vibrations and material conditions in buildings, bridges, factories, farms and other infrastructure. Coupled with an intelligent network, these sensors will feed crucial information back to maintenance crews or robots.

Dozens of other technologies like robotic farm swarms, vertical farms, and precision farming to name a few, are being fine-tuned and scheduled for wide-scale implementation far into the next decade.

I could go on to touch every business-type, but hopefully this is enough to awaken the disbelievers or those who simply haven't given the role of technology in our lives much thought.  If you are among those, I encourage you to to embrace technology in its many forms.  If you are starting a new business, or looking to expand sales and production in an existing business, don’t ignore the writing on the wall.  Technology is here to stay, and you can learn about, use it, and reap its benefits, or you may have to face an awful truth within the next decade, and realize that you've missed your opportunity to ride your industry’s boat into a very profitable future!

Monday, November 10, 2014

If you live in or near Union, SC, here's a workshop for you!

There's an upcoming workshop at the Union County Chamber of Commerce that will provide start-up steps and information for those anticipating opening a business. 

Lunch is provided

Click here to see the workshop flyer and register today!   

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dos and Don’ts for Your Business Website

Websites are most effective when it is pulling in visitors, keeping them around, and converting them into customers. However, most small business websites act more as an online placeholder. It is never too late to start putting in some work to help your business grow. So take advantage of the huge potential consumer base for the online market. To assist you in your website development here is a list of some things you should and shouldn't do:

Tip: Keep in mind that today’s consumers are accessing your website from multiple locations (desktop, laptops, smartphones and tablets) and make sure to tailor your website to these different devices.

Your Website Should…
·         Look Professional
·         Have a Private Domain Name
·         Be Secure
·         Have a Memorable Domain Name
·         Contain Your Business Name in Text
·         Contain Your Business Address in Text
·         Have Your Company Phone Number in Click-to-Call Format
·         Make Contact Info Easy to Find
·         Tell Visitors What You Do at a Glance
·         Highlight Your USP (Unique Selling Point)
·         Show Off Customer Testimonials
·         Invite Visitor Feedback
·         Speak to Your Visitors-Not Your Ego
·         Offer Fresh Content
·         Contain Keywords
·         Make it Personal
·         Link to Other Websites
·         Have Other Websites Link to Yours
·         Make Checkout Easy
·         Connect with Social Media

Your Website Should Not…
·         Have a Lot of Bells and Whistles
·         Use Flash Animation, Moving Text, Fancy Cursors or Music
·         Post Images Without ALT Tags or Text Captions
·         Have Dead Links
·         List All Your Products and Services

Note: This post contains information from the article “20 Things Your Website Should Do and 5 Things It Shouldn't”. For more detailed information about these tips refer to this link: http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/10/things-your-website-should-do.html?inf_contact_key=069eb960b0372d318ee214a5e406928c09386c0bbbe1c7ba69c5aed5fcd01248

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What to Consider in the Search for a Business Location

Consider the Surrounding Community
Determine if the community is actively seeking new companies. Learn of possible incentives by contacting the local economic development agency. You could receive financial support for tenant improvements, municipal programs giving preferences to area businesses or local tax and planning department waivers.

Tip: Try to lock in incentives prior to signing a lease to ensure you get the incentives you are promised.

Beware of Problem Locations
Some locations are simple bad for business. So look out for revolving business sites that is the home to a new business every few months. Remember the goal is not to buy the cheapest location. According to lease consultant, Dale Willerton, the goal is to select a site that will help you maximize sales.

Identify Target Customers
Seek locations that have an abundance of your target customers and employees with the necessary skills to get the job done. Other considerations for your customers include market size, customers’ purchasing power, traffic flow, and any physical barriers and traffic limitations or detours.  

Pay a Fair Price
Be realistic and ready to pay for a good location. Good locations are not cheap, but they will contribute toward business success.

Know the Competition
Evaluate the competition and be certain there is enough business to go around. If the area is saturated with similar businesses then you may want to consider a new location. If you are determined to compete in a tight market you must be able to offer a product or service that sufficiently changes to the game and draw enough business to make the operation workable. Assessing the competition will also help determine if your company can gain a competitive advantage by offering something the existing competition doesn't or determine if your business idea is feasible.

Note: These tips were taken from the article “5 pointers for Selecting a Site for Your Business”. For the full article refer the following link: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238700

Monday, October 20, 2014

8 Apps That Can Help Your Small Business

Triplog: An app that can be used for fleet management and to track vehicle mileage. Triplog has an automatic GPS mileage tracker. It allows you to sync your data between the web and your mobile device. You can manage your team and fleet by using the GPS fleet tracking system which displays actual driving routes and vehicle locations on the map. The app also assists with generating IRS compliant mileage reports for tax deductions or reimbursements for all vehicles.

Waze: Get real-time traffic and road information that will help save you time and gas money on your daily route. This community-based app enables millions of drivers out on the road to work together and outsmart traffic by getting the best routes to and from work. You can get alerts before approaching police, accidents, road hazards, or traffic jams. This app even helps you navigate to the cheapest gas station on your route.

GasBuddy: This app allows you to find the cheapest gas on the go. You can locate gas stations near you and see their current gas prices. This app is also community-based and has users work together to update gas prices. You can earn points every time you report a gas price which can be used towards prize give-a-ways.

Uber: Help your employees get around safely with the help of Uber. This app quickly connects you with safe, reliable rides that are automatically billed to your company. Uber is a great way to centralize billing for transportation, increase transparency, improve team management, and offer seamless travel. All you have to do is sign-up your organization, input the payment method, and add your employees.

Pocket: Ever wanted to save articles or videos for you to view later? Well this app allows you to do that from any device. You can save readings from your browser or apps like Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and Zite. By using Pocket you won’t lose those interesting articles. You can place, view, organize and share content anytime, from any device, and while offline.

DropBox: Use Dropbox to support your work team and control your business needs. With this app you can securely store, sync, and share files with your staff. It also comes with administrative tools that IT needs to protect your business files. Using Dropbox can increase your productivity by using a centralized and controlled location to store, share, and connect information instantly from anywhere.

Business Card Reader Pro: This business card scanner recognizes business cards right on your phone. Be able to import contact information from cards directly to your contacts. This app will even integrate with other applications such as LinkedIn, Salesforce and Evernote.

Concur: This app lets you manage anything expense or travel related wherever you are. You can book and manage itineraries, capture receipts, and submit expense reports. And it can all be done on your smart phone. Other features includes uploading IRS compliant images directly to expense reports, approving or rejecting expense reports, and adding car mileage to an expense report.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of Guarantees

Did you know that an amazing customer experience can be enhanced with the use of guarantees? Studies have shown that customers are more confident in making a purchase because of the powerful guarantees of products or services. It shows customers that you stand by your product or service and typically only about 1% ever invoke the guarantee. There are several ways you can communicate your guarantees such as hanging a sign in your store or waiting room, publishing it on your website, or any other form as long as it is understandable and in writing. With the right guarantee a small business owner in any industry can generate more sales.

Click here to get a list of 50 Powerful Small Business Guarantees!

Friday, October 10, 2014

What Excites Shoppers?

Shoppers see retailers as providers of products or services. But to attract those shoppers, retailers need to understand what a provider really is. Michael Dill of the Match Marketing Group recently spoke at an Advertising Week event and said, "A provider is not just a place to buy things. A provider is someone who gives me value, gives me engagement, gives me content. Customers want brands to entertain them, to show them what they can do with a product and who else is using it. They're looking for a sensory experience," he said. "In some cases, like in consumer-packaged goods, brands and retailers need to come together to create a unified approach.

"Build an experience for shoppers. A brand experience is not a moment. It is a state of mind," said Mr. Dill. "It's something that's felt and emotional. It takes place over a long duration of time. And it takes place at every point where we touch the consumer with our brand." 

My first thought?  Apple. I have an IPhone, and I'll upgrade when I think I need it; but can you see the frenzy that overtakes so many in our communities to buy anything and everything Apple has to offer?  It's nothing short of amazing .... I think they've figured out this "emotional, exciting state of mind" thing!

Can you think of a brand/product that evokes that kind of emotional, exciting experience in the minds of customers?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Join GobiernoUSA.gov and SBA’s Live Spanish Hangout on Business Tips for Young Entrepreneurs

Are you a young entrepreneur looking for tips on how to start a new business? The SBA and GobiernoUSA.gov will host a live Hangout in Spanish on September 25 to chat about SBA’s new online course for Young Entrepreneurs (J√≥venes Emprendedores), along with Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies. Farzam started the company in 2007 to help bridge the gap of cultural awareness for young children through language and music.
If you’re thinking going into business for yourself and you’re not sure of what it takes to start a small business, then this Hangout is for you. You can submit your questions (link sends e-mail) before or during the live Hangout.

More on the Course
Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Business is a free, self-paced online course in Spanish that gives an overview of basic business principles and introduces resources available from the SBA. Course highlights include how to evaluate your business ideas, how to choose the best financing options and how to legally register your business.
The course also includes useful resources that will help at each step of your entrepreneurial journey.
The course is accessible from the SBA’s Learning Center under the banner “Starting a Business”, and is also available in English. The Spanish version of the course includes a special video introduction. Young Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs will receive a personal greeting from SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet when taking the course.

Sarah Farzam, owner of Bilingual Birdies

Thursday, September 25, 2014

1:00 PM (ET)

Submit Your Questions to:
learning@sba.gov (link sends e-mail)


To watch live and join the conversation, go to: https://plus.google.com/u/1/b/109740293027006618740/events/cb3oitffipifl4t42t9bd7uq0f4 (link is external) No registration is needed to watch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How to Promote Yourself on YouTube

Trying to promote you or your brand and stand out from the rest? Tired of trying to get noticed on Facebook or Twitter with so many others doing the same thing? Read this interesting article about how promoting yourself on YouTube may be the way to go. It talks about how YouTube is almost a completely untapped site that small businesses can use to market themselves; and how it is so easy to start posting videos in minutes. This sort of thing can help separate you from your competition. Click the link below to help expand your brand:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Data Breach ... What to Do? How to Do It!


  Here it is .... the HOT subject that has merchants frustrated and customers extremely nervous! DATA BREACH! Don't think it can't happen in your business, because it can. 

     It may seem that you don't have the risk of that happening compared to a Target or KMart or Bank of America, because you aren't as big or visible a target. But it happens, and quite often. What can you do to prevent it from happening to your business? And what do you do if does happen? 

     The Small Business Council Council of The York County Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting a workshop to give you information, tips, and advice on these questions and more. 

 Read the flyer to learn more!  Limited seating .... Register now! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Stay Ahead of the Pack through Minitrends

Trends A key advantage for any business is to stay in the forefront of emerging trends in their particular industry. To do this successfully an organization must utilize its most valuable asset, its people. Assigning a few employees to focus on the unappreciated and actionable minitrends can help an organization tap into the top trends and achieve the best results. Here is a three step approach on how your organization can stay ahead of the curve, energize the innovation process, and succeed in an ever-changing business and technology environment.                                                                                                                                                     
Step 1: Recognize- Spark and encourage innovation, creativity, and imagination among your employees. Establish a team that regularly scans the environment for interesting and potentially profitable minitrends.

Step 2: Assess- Create a structure that will help you organize, analyze and rank potential minitrends for further consideration and action. Assess the likelihood of the trend’s success and how it fits with the organization.

Step 3: Strategize- Upon assessing your finds make sure to incorporate the most promising minitrends into your business strategies. This enables new opportunities depending on the size, nature, goals, and resources of your organization.  Some options to accomplish this includes: acquiring or partnering with other companies, building protection from competitors while growing the business, and creating new ventures.

Note: This information was derived from the article “Here’s how to stay on top of ‘minitrends’ and get ahead of the pack”, which was published by the Austin Business Journal. To read the full article refer to the following link:  http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/blog/at-the-watercooler/2014/09/how-to-stay-on-top-of-minitrends-and-get-ahead.html?page=all

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Fix Your Business Plan

The business plan is the foundation for any business. The operations and steps that follow this strategic plan helps the business build upon its specified goals and objectives. Creating a weak or ambiguous business plan can result in costly mistakes or business struggles that could have been avoided. Here are some common problems that business owners have in regards to their business plan and how to fix these problems. 

1.     It’s Nonexistent- If you haven’t taken the time to write a business plan for the strategic growth of your company it is never too late to begin.

How to Fix IT: Start writing your business plan today with a fresh plan on where you company is and where you want to take it. Utilize the SBDC downloadable business plan templates to outline your strategic plan and projected future profits.

2.     It’s Ginormous and Therefore Useless-Your business plan does not have to be 40 plus pages. The need for a business plan to be all inclusive rarely applies to small businesses unless you are seeking funding from investors. Having an enormous document can be overwhelming and you may never actually take the time to review it.  

How to Fix It: Try creating a simpler plan. You may be the only person who reads your plan, but you want it to be readable and comprehensible. So stick to the basics and don’t strive for length. Just get to the point.

3.     You Never Look at It- You may have developed a great plan 5 years ago, but it is very likely that goals, products or other offerings have changed since then.  Generally, a business plan should be a living, working document that you regularly review and modify as needed.

How to Fix It: Take a look at your existing business plan and its structure. You are likely to see areas that need to be reflected upon and adjusted. Try to review your business plan 2-4 times a year.

4.     It’s Not Actionable- Maybe you have filled your business plan with fluff or established long-term goals with no measurable steps to accomplish them. Although you have your plan and take the time to read it, you don’t have a clue about what to do next.

How to Fix It: Amend your plan with action items that set up steps for how you can make your goal a reality. These steps need to be achievable and measurable so that the next time you review your strategic plan, you can see how far (or not) you have come toward achieving those goals.    

Note: This information was obtained from a Small Business Trends article, “How to Fix What’s Wrong With Your Business Plan – You Have One, Right?” To read the full article refer to the following link:  http://smallbiztrends.com/2014/09/whats-wrong-with-your-business-plan.html?tr=sm

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SC Small Business - Lender Match Maker Event

Calling all small business owners ...

 Are you ready and seriously looking for capital to expand your business or open a new business?  Then plan to attend a lender-borrower workshop that will address current lending practices. 

The Lender Match Maker event includes the opportunity to attend two of the following breakout sessions...
  • Start-ups and Access to Capital... Realistic options for getting your business off the ground. 
  • Expansion and Growth... Choosing the best financing resource for growing your business. 
  • Your Financial Statements... What story are they telling? 
  • Alternative Funding... Alternatives to a traditional bank loan.
Afternoon MatchMaking Sessions allow one-on-one meetings with up to ten funding resources. 

This will be the only Business - Lender Match Maker event in the state this year, so
space will be limited.  

  • $35 Early Registration price availale until October 8, 2014
    $50 Regular Registration price available online until October 21, 2014, and on-site the day of the event if seating is still available
    For more information, contact Tessa Monahan, SC Department of Commerce, (803) 737-1336 or via email at Tmonahan@sccommerce.com

Register today at 

                                                Sponsors include:
South Carolina Department of Commerce
SC Bankers Association
Carolinas Credit Union League
South Carolina SBDC
South Carolina Chamber of Commerce
USDA Rural Development
U.S. Small Business Association
NFIB ... the voice of Small Business
The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Create Happy and Healthy Employees

       Wellness programs are becoming an important aspect of today's work environment. Encouraging healthy habits for your employees can improve their job performance and increase their happiness on the job. Health costs are decreasing making it a great time for employers to start wellness programs in their businesses. Here are some ideas you can use to start a wellness program for your employees:
  • Tobacco-free incentives   
  • Cancer prevention screenings and education
  • Health plans with incentives for regular wellness visits
  • Free or low-cost healthy vending-machine and cafeteria choices
  • Business or departmental health challenge with enticing incentives, such as vacation getaways, additional paid leave or free groceries

Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Steps to Start Selling to the Government

Billions of dollars’ worth of goods and services are purchased by the government each year. A big portion of these purchases come from transactions with small businesses. In fact, the government has funds set aside specifically for small businesses. Since these government funds are regulated there is a different demand and therefore requires a different go-to-market approach than does the commercial sector. The process for registration to do business with the government is a daunting task that has several requirements, but here are five steps that can get you started as a government contractor.

Step 1- Register as a Government Contractor: Fortunately, the certification process is fairly simple. First, your business must qualify to sell to the government as a “small business”. Check with the SBA to see if your business meets the size requirements for a small business. Once you qualify then you must apply for a D-U-N-S number and register your business in the System for Award Management (SAM) database. The SAM database lists all businesses in which the government can search for services and products and the companies that sell them. You must be registered in SAM before you can sell anything to the Federal Government.

Step 2- Get a Contract Vehicle: Contract vehicles are government contracts that are put in place before any individual transactions occur between the government and your business. These agreements are pre-authorization forms that lets the government purchaser know that you are an approved supplier and outlines an agreed upon pricing for your products and services. You also have the option of becoming a sub-contractor. As a sub-contractor you partner with a prime contractor who already holds a government contract vehicle. Contact the SBA for more information on becoming a government sub-contractor.

Step 3- Get Expert Advice from SBA Procurement Reps: The SBA offers numerous resources online and in the community to help you prepare to do business with the government and to guide you through the process of government contracting. Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) provide services such as training, counseling, and business matchmaking events. Online courses are also provided for businesses who are interested in doing business with the government. Other SBA support services include small business assistance programs, opportunities and resources as well as support groups for women- and veteran-owned businesses, disadvantaged businesses, and those located in economically distressed areas. To find a local PCR refer to the following link: http://www.sba.gov/content/government-contracting-field-staff-directory

Step 4- Identify Your Target Market: The public sector is highly competitive which makes it hard for new businesses to enter. Finding a niche and identifying your target market is critical to success. The agencies and departments of the government have different goals and it is important that you research these specific goals and find the ones that could be a potential fit for your business. Fortunately, the information you need (i.e. goals, missions, budgets) to find your target group is available to the public. This is just one step into entering the market. You must also get out and network through industry events hosted by media organizations and private sector contractors. Make sure that you have reference customers lined up to provide to potential agencies. This will help support your proof of performance as a trusted supplier in the marketplace. Check out websites such as USA.gov, USAspending.gov or FedBizOpps.gov to find information on agency profiles, government spending, and current opportunities.

Step 5- Get Bidding: Once you have completed all the above mentioned steps you are ready to start researching government opportunities. Bid announcements are listed on FedBizOpps.gov. You will also find information about the bid process on the SBA.gov website.    

To read the full article click on the following link: http://www.sba.gov/blogs/selling-government-get-started-these-5-steps

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Handle Bad Online Reviews for Your Small Business

                                           bad online review                               
Operating a successful business involves the preservation of a good reputation. With the number of online review sites increasing, consumers have more opportunities to express their opinions and experiences. However, these reviews are not always positive. Here are some tips for what to avoid and how to successfully respond to bad online reviews.

What NOT To Do
What TO Do
Argue with the Reviewer
Take an Objective Look
Game the System
Respond with Tact
Do Nothing
Apologize and Ask for Input

For more detailed information about the DOs and DON’Ts for bad reviews refer to the following link:  http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/08/how-to-handle-bad-online-review.html?inf_contact_key=26c06981da0528f2488d9e3463e4ad5d0339de383ee4b512d063a1008b0c41a3

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

7 Techniques to Help You Save Money with Technology

You do not have to spend a lot on technology in order to receive a huge benefit. Using the right technology business owners can sell more, serve customers faster, keep labor costs in check, and become more internally efficient. Here are some tips for how you can maintain your budget and still get your hands on that all-important technology you want for your business.

  • Use Evernote to compile lists of discounts codes and special offers: A web note-taking service, like Evernote, can help you simplify your life and save you money.
  • Keep your technology an extra generation: You can save money by stretching the useful life of your devices a little longer.
  • Set up alerts for price drops: CamelCamelCamel, Unimerc, and TechBargains are some third party apps that have been created to help you keep track of price changes on Amazon and alerts for deals on technology.
  • Use a free analytics program to make your online marketing more effective: Programs like Goggle Analytics can help you track specific activity on your website and other online marketing sites. This can prevent leads and online traffic from getting away without capitalizing on it.
  • Subscribe to get daily or weekly tech deals: Sign up for newsletters and printed sale flyers from hardware companies such as Dell or HP who offer periodic sale notifications.
  • Check partner sections of your vendors’ website: Several vendors give discounts on “partner” products.
  • Hold meetings online: This can save your business money on traveling by opting for video conferences to communicate with customers and vendors.

For more information on these tips click the following link: http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-techniques-help-you-save-money-with-technology

Friday, August 8, 2014

Protecting Your Partnership with a Buy-Sell Agreement

Have you considered what will happen if one of your business partners dies, become disabled, or wants to leave the business? It might come across as morbid, but partners should work together to protect the intrinsic value of the partnership for each individual partner and their families.

A Buy-Sell agreement is a legally binding agreement between co-owners of a business. The co-owners typically have a life insurance policy on the participating owners' lives which allows the surviving partner to pay to the decedents family for the decedents share of the partnership.

Mark J. Kohler, CPA recommends a Buy-Sell Agreement stating that this agreement can "Contain all the terms for a situation when a departing partner wants to protect his or her value in the partnership. Such agreements are additional to the business agreements of an LLC or Corporation."

For more information on buy-sell agreements and their implementation: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236180

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Winthrop Region SBDC Opens New Satellite Office in Union, SC

Lewis Jeter, III
The staff of the Winthrop Region of the SC SBDC has been traveling to reach out on as regular a basis as possible to the business owners and aspiring business owners in Union County.   While we've made trips there as we could from our Rock Hill office, and done workshops there on occasion, NOW we will have an actual presence in Union and be able to work much closer with the community.

Well-known Union community leader, Lewis Jeter III will be the new Union SBDC Consultant, with an office located in the SC Works Building at 103 West Main Street. You may reach the Union office at UnionSBDC@gmail.com or call (864) 427-4119. Lewis will be visiting with a variety of local agencies and community leaders in the weeks to come to make them aware of the variety of small business services available to SBDC clients courtesy of the State of SC and the SBA, as well as our supporting partners in Union: SC Works, the City of Union and the Union Chamber of Commerce.

Consultants from our Rock Hill office will continue to work with Lewis to offer a variety of workshops to help grow and develop the business community. 

Welcome to the SBDC family, Lewis!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How to Stay Productive Working From Home

If you were given the opportunity, would you willingly work from home? Most people would say yes without a doubt. However, the people that are currently working from home might have a different viewpoint. Yes, working from home allows you to stay in your pajamas all day and allows you to take care of your children/pets, but is that necessarily a good thing? 

Nowadays more and more people are working from home; either to run their successful internet business, or because technology advancements have allowed them to do so. No matter the industry, employees need to follow certain strategies to make sure that they are as efficient at home as they would be in a traditional office space.

Entrepreneur.com complied a list to help individuals stay productive when working from home. The key strategies to remember include:

  • Have a Separate Office Space. Working from home doesn't mean you can stay in bed or in front of the TV with your laptop. Career experts recommend setting up a specific office area in the home so you can “go to work” and not be distracted by dirty dishes, a crying child or a favorite TV show.
  • Set Clear Boundaries.“Create very strict boundaries where there are no dogs, kids or spouses allowed,” says Cardone. “The door needs to remain shut with only those that have top clearance allowed access.”
  • Keep Regular Work Hours and Prepare. Keeping regular work hours is key for maintaining productivity. “Your family and friends need to pretend you simply aren't there, unless it's a dire emergency,” says Garfinkle. “Remind your family of these hours and let them know you expect them to respect your work time so that you won’t have to work when you should be spending with them.” 
  • Change Your Mindset. “The main motivation of convenience or comfort, which most people who work from home have, is flawed,” says Cardone. Yes, it’s more convenient to not have to go to an office every day, but remote workers can’t view it as an excuse to slack off.
  • Know When to Throw in the Towel. If your productivity is declining or it’s difficult to maintain a work-life balance, then it may be time to re-evaluate your work situation. Not everyone is well-suited for working from home. Some individuals prefer having an interaction with co-workers, and that is okay. Working from home isn't for everyone.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Looking for a Dose of Inspiration? Try Mentoring a Young Entrepreneur.

Peter Gasca, an Entrepreneur and Small Business Strategist, recently had the experience of working with several young entrepreneurs. All of the young entrepreneurs, between ages 11 and 16, had already successfully started at least one business with aspirations for opening many more. 

Peter's takeaways from the conference included the value he gained from working with the young entrepreneurs. According to Peter "be assured, you will find that the benefit of becoming a mentor goes as much in your direction as it does in theirs."

Peter's reasons for taking on a youth mentee are summarized below: 

  • Wildly Creative. Peter stated that he was pleasantly surprised by the entrepreneurial ideas that the group suggested and recommended that entrepreneurs bounce ideas around with young entrepreneurs. 
  • Contagiously Enthusiastic. Their excitement and passion for their businesses was invigorating, and if you can handle this energy level, having their enthusiasm around will undoubtedly rub off on you.
  • Crazily Optimistic. Engaging in the exuberance of young entrepreneurs will remind you of a time when you ambitiously looked beyond roadblocks, paradigms and potential failures.
  • Youthfully Elastic. Mentoring a young entrepreneur is like mentoring a younger you. More important than foretelling risks and mistakes, however, all of which should be experienced firsthand, you should instill in them the idea that failure is an option and, in fact, inevitable.

Monday, July 21, 2014

10 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Cash Flow

10 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Cash Flow
To have a successful business requires the ability to maintain a healthy cash flow on a day-to-day basis. A healthy cash flow includes keeping an accurate record of cash inflows and outflows so that you are able to have enough necessary cash on-hand and to produce enough funds to cover expenses. You also want to make the payment process convenient for your customers, but have reasonable assurance that payments will be received on a timely basis. Here are some everyday money management tips that you can apply to your small business:   
  • Stay on Top of Your Books
  • Send Out Invoices Promptly
  • Create an Ironclad Accounts Receivable Process
  • Get Rid of Unnecessary Expenses
  • Offer Your Customers Multiple Payment Options
  • Require Partial Payment in Advance for Project Work
  • Limit Inventory
  • Use Payment Terms That Give You Breathing Room
  • Consider a Line of Credit
  • Anticipate and Plan for Future Investments

 For more details on these money management tips refer to this link: http://sbinformation.about.com/od/creditloans/fl/10-Ways-to-Improve-Your-Small-Business-Cash-Flow.htm 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Do People Actually Quit Their Jobs?

We have all heard the saying "a happy wife equals a happy life", but for business owners happy employees equals a happy work-life. To keep your employees happy you need to understand what motivates them and what frustrates them with regards to their work environment. The following infographic presents the workplace deal breakers that every employer should be aware of.

Monday, July 14, 2014

SupplierPay & QuickPay Initiatives: President’s Partnership with Private Sector to Strengthen America’s Small Businesses

President Obama and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet joined together over the weekend to launch the SupplierPay project. This project is the proposed solution to providing access to affordable and consistent working capital for entrepreneurs. SupplierPay also pledges to shorten payments or provide other creative financing solutions. For small business suppliers this will improve on-time payments, keep interest rates low, and increase supplier confidence to hire more workers and expand their operations through investments in new equipment, products, and people. So far 26 major corporations have signed up. The SBA is continuing to recruit more corporations in this effort to drive job and economic growth.President Obama is also renewing the QuickPay Initiative which was launched in 2011 for federal small business subcontractors.  

Click the link below to learn more about these initiatives:


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Should You Incorporate Your Business?

How Should You Incorporate Your Business? Here’s a Cheat Sheet. (Infographic)

Deciding whether to register your business as an S Corp, C Corp, LLC, Sole Proprietorship, or Partnership can be a tricky task. Each legal structure has its own set of costs and benefits that make the decision even more complicated. An infographic designed by the University of Southern California's Master of Laws Program gives a break down of each legal form of business in terms of its costs, complexity, and advantages.
Click the link to access this cheat sheet of the differences of U.S. Business Legal Forms:  http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235208 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions for 2014

Entrepreneurs face many daunting tasks every day. One of the scariest tasks is deciding which potential candidates will be the best fit for the organization.  When it comes to interviewing techniques most business owners become better from practice, but sometimes it is helpful to review the strategies of other companies. 

We have all heard the typical job interview questions such as "What is your biggest weakness?" and "Why should we hire you?", but those are all questions that candidates can prepare for. The typical interview questions are necessary, but sometimes asking an oddball question can reveal more about the candidate. Glassdoor complied their top 25 oddball interview questions for 2014 by reviewing thousands of questions shared by job candidates from companies like Apple to Beth Bath & Beyond. Our favorites are listed below, but the full list can be found at: http://www.glassdoor.com/   

  • "If you were a pizza deliveryman how would you benefit from scissors?" (Apple)
  • "If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?" (Red Frog Events)
  • "If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring? (Yahoo)
  • "Why is a tennis ball fuzzy?" (Xerox)
  • "Have you ever been on a boat?" (Applied Systems)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Winthrop Regional SBDC Newsletter!!

Its that time again....our July newsletter will be emailed out next week. This month's theme is Christmas in July and will be filled with tips for new and existing businesses! To enroll for our newsletter, email: winthropregionalsbdc@gmail.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy 4th of July!!

Happy 4th of July from our SBDC family to yours! Our offices will be closed tomorrow, but will reopen on Monday July 7th. 

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Enlist Twitter for Crowdfunding Success

Crowdfunding Attorney, Kendall Almerico, recently helped Entrepreneur.com establish a list of things to consider when using Twitter for Crowdfunding. Mr. Almerico suggests:
  1. Build relationships on Twitter before you launch the campaign.
    1. Follow people that could be potential donors
    2. Post interesting content so potential donors will pay attention
    3. Retweet their posts to build a relationship
    4. Gain access to journalists
  2. Tweet often.
    1. Sending one tweet a day is not enough
    2. Tweeting about the campaign in the morning and again at the day's end means 95% of your followers won't see the tweets.
  3. Ask people to retweet.
    1. Tweets go viral based on retweets
    2. Compelling news gets retweeted, but its easy to have something retweeted if you ask.
  4. Tweet everything you post on Facebook.
    1. Your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers probably aren't the same people.
    2. Don't rely on linking your Facebook account to your Twitter account.
  5. Use hashtags to help spread the word.
    1. Hashtags make it easier for anyone to find the crowdfunding project

Find the full article here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234427