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3 Bits of Advice from Successful Small Business Owner

Are you ready to take your small business to the next level? Here are three pieces of advice from small business owners that could help you find success today:

1. Don't Be Afraid
The first step is learning how to control your fear. As a small business owner, you will encounter new experiences, challenges and roadblocks on your path to success.

Letting fear get in the way of your goals will prevent you from moving forward. 

Entrepreneur magazine recently questioned a number of small business owners, asking their advice for other professionals looking to forge their own paths. Dr. Mehdi Yazdanpanah, CEO and founder of NaugaNeedles, spoke of fear when asked what he would say to small business owners.

"I guess I would say don't be afraid," Yazdanpanah told Entrepreneur. "If they have a business idea but are afraid because of a lack of funding or experience and so on, I have to tell them don't worry, these are not going to be an issue in this country."

2. Lean on Your Team
The next step is to rely heavily on the team around you. Although training and supervising new hires may become tough as your business grows, trust your staff to handle their duties.

"The best resources a smaller business can utilize [for training] are its current employees," Mark Newman, CEO of video recruiting platform HireVue, told the news source. "They can provide helpful tips and tricks that will help bring the new hire up to speed, and aren't built into training programs."

3. Know Your Finances
Finally, you must understand your finances in order to succeed. Evan Farmer, owner of Cuppa coffee shop, spoke to Michigan's MLive media outlet about his experience running a small business. He stressed the importance of money management.

"That's something we've had to learn over time," Farmer told MLive. "My wife takes a lot of responsibility with the bookkeeping, fortunately, because I'm just not a numbers person. ... I'm more creative."

With a firm knowledge of finances, you'll have an easier time growing your business and finding more success in the future.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received? Tell us in the comments below.

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Open Enrollment: A Trick or a Treat for Your Small Business?

By the time your Halloween decorations are taken down and boxed up you'll be getting ready for another important event this year: the 2015 health insurance open enrollment period.

Will this time around be a treat for your small business, or will it turn into a trick?

Starting on Nov. 15, 2014 and running through Feb. 15, 2015, individuals can acquire new health insurance policies or make key changes to their existing benefit plans. In order to keep the scares confined to Halloween, here are three tips to get the most out of this open enrollment period:
 

1. Know Your Options
The Affordable Care Act has opened up new doors for employers and individuals. Since it went into effect, many people have changed their coverage around to get a better deal. You may also want to go this route, and it helps if you know your options. Remember to research group benefit plans and individual ones.

You might save some money should you decide to ditch the group policy and instead financially support each employee as they purchase their own coverage.

2. Talk It out with Your Staff
A lack of communication can be a serious problem during the open enrollment period. Instead, make sure you talk it out with your staff ahead of time. Too many employees aren't aware of the nuances of the ACA. Sit down with each of them to hash out the pros and cons of health insurance, so they know what they want to do this year.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Offer Benefits
Offering substantial employee benefits can be scary - it's a definite financial investment. However, the right coverage, more variety and more options for employees can lead to improved retention, productivity, loyalty and other positives.

Have you started exploring your options during the 2015 open enrollment period? Tell us in the comments below. 

 

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How to Not Feel Overwhelmed Anymore

Does the average workday for you sound like hundreds of tasks piled on top of each other?

Sure, the life of a small business owner can get hectic at times. Transforming an idea into a successful small business takes guts, dedication and determination, and the result of that may be the opinion within your team that you are the go-to, do-it-all leader extraordinaire.

However, don't let this mean that you have to tackle every project alone - you'll surely burn out.

Instead, focus on doling out some direction in the office.

Why You Should Delegate
As you grow, it's important to look for ways to get your staff members more involved in your business to take some of the work off your plate. 

Why is delegation important? Most importantly, it frees up your time to focus on more important duties. You have your job - you shouldn't be doing everyone else's as well.

Delegation also helps grow and educate your employees. The more you rely on other people to handle important tasks, the more pride they will take in their role. Plus, it will reduce training time should you experience turnover or see a senior employee evolve in their role. Always show trust and confidence in your team as you delegate.

How You Can Delegate
Keep in mind that there is a right way and a wrong way to delegate. The best way is to dedicate the time and resources to provide the right context. For example, plan ahead to ensure the person who receives the new work understand why the task is important, and that they have the right training to get started. If you don't set the stage, chances are you could just end up taking the job back and doing it yourself. 

Your tactics can also get better if you first identify team members who are up to the challenge. Start delegating with them before branching out. Figure out each person's strengths and weaknesses and assign duties accordingly. With this complete, you'll be delegating like a pro in no time.

How do you delegate among your team members? Tell us below. 

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The Greatest Small Business Names of All Time

There are a lot of factors that make a business great: A visionary leader, dedicated employees, and loyal customers. But what about the company’s name? Sure, classic mega-brands like Apple and Amazon will always make the official top-10 lists. But we’re partial to the creativity and humor that we see in the names of small businesses from all around the world.

Here are some of our favorites:

 

 

The Merchant of Tennis: a tennis supply store in Canada. It's considered "Shakespeare’s racket purveyor of choice".

 

 

 

 


 

Florist Gump: a florist in Scotland. Run, florist, run!

 

 


 

 

 

Pho Shizzle: a Vietnamese restaurant in Washington State. The favorite soup restaurant of Slurp Dog.

 


 

 

 

Indiana Bones and the Temple of Groom: pet care store in California. Extra points for pulling off the tricky double-pun with style! 

 

 


 

What's your favorite small business name? Tell us in the comments below. 

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The 3 Coolest Small Businesses in Tampa

With interesting retail stores, dedicated non-profits and creative eateries, Tampa is home to a number of incredible local businesses that play an integral role in the community. Although we think all small businesses are cool, below are three that are really caught our eye. 

1. Bill Jackson's Inc.
Located in Pinellas Park, Florida, Bill Jackson's Inc. is a small business that specializes in outdoor goods and services. Here, shoppers can pick up the gear they need for hiking, climbing, kayaking and many more exciting activities. A range of educational classes makes getting outdoors easier than ever.

2. Success 4 Kids & Families
This Tampa-based non-profit offers in-home treatment options for families with children dealing with behavioral, emotional or mental health concerns. Staff members take a holistic approach to the process, working with the entire family to help children realize their full potential.

3. VectorLearning, Inc.
VectorLearning, Inc. offers continuing online education and training for a variety of professionals across multiple industries. With a full-time staff of fewer than 100 people, this small business helps its clients  reduce costs, mitigate risk, and increase worker productivity

What's your favorite small business in Tampa? Tell us in the comments below. 

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4 Things Nobody Told You about Being a Small Business Owner

When you think about your daily life as a small business owner, what part of your job makes you the happiest?

Odds are; your answer doesn't involve your finances or taxes. Managing your books isn't often what made you become a business owner in the first place - and is rarely discussed when you set out on your journey. 

Here are the four biggest pitfalls small business owners are often unaware of in the early days:

1. Estimating cash flow needs is difficult
Many entrepreneurs have difficulty estimating the amount of cash flow they'll need on hand in the beginning stages of their business. Until you have a strong grasp on the number of customers you'll be serving, your margins and cash flow conversation cycles, finding out how much you need can be a challenge. 

2. Same goes for financial planning
Many business owners forgo forecasting financial needs ahead of time - or do so with inaccurate and overly optimistic predictions for the health of their firms. Even if you don't have all of the information, its imperative that you use the best estimate you can start laying out your pricing strategies, expenses, etc. 

It is always best to aim low and be pleased when you surpass your estimates, rather than assume too much and get in trouble down the line.

3. No man is an island
Successful small business owners are confident, committed and skilled at their jobs. However, many decide early on that they can use these traits to do everything on their own, but trying to do too much can be a serious negative. For example, if financial planning and forecasting truly bores you, consider hiring a business manager or accountant to handle that side of the business. It will allow you to focus on what you do best and enjoy. 

4. Tax time is all the time 
Sure, mid-April is the tax deadline we all know, but companies have many other tax obligations that don't always fall on this due date. As a small business owner, you have a responsibility to deal with the IRS throughout the year. Forgetting that could end with you backed into a corner, especially when it comes to cash flow (all the more reason to hire an accountant). 

What do you wish someone had told you about running a business? Tell us in the comments below. 

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Independent Contractors vs. Full-Time Employees

Independent contractors or full-time employees - which one is the right choice for your business as you grow? Naturally, each option has its pros and cons, and the answer may be more nuanced than you think. 

Pros of Choosing Full-Time
- Full-timers are typically more productive, motivated members of your team. They are locked into their roles, so they can feel pride about their job. 

- When business picks up, you also won't have to invest more funds in training and hiring, and you can watch your employees grow and contribute to your company over time. 

Cons of Choosing Full-Time
- You will need to provide full-time employees benefits, and depending on the size of your small business, including health insurance options (read more about the ACA here). 

- Full-time employees need to be on a set payment schedule, regardless of your revenue for that month. This also requires you adhere to specific payroll paperwork and withholding taxes, social security, Medicare, etc. 

Pros of Choosing Contractors
- Contractors are essentially freelancers who can come in for a short periods of time and accomplish specific tasks. Although the pay is typically comparable to full-time employees, you won't be required to pay out benefits or commit to a salary. 

- Contractors often bring a detailed knowledge to the table. You can hire a person with the exact skill set you need for each job.

Cons of choosing contractors
- What you gain in flexibility, you sacrifice in loyalty, commitment and dedication that full-timers provide. You also aren't guaranteed that the same contractor will always be available when you need it. 

- The time and money you do invest in contractors is more likely to pay off in the short-term, not the long-term. 

Overall, choosing the right type of employee comes down to your personal situation. Consider your finances, your company's goals, your current situation and the type of job before you make the call for your small business.

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Angry at Yelp? Here's How to Come out on Top

For one small business owner, negative Yelp reviews might not be such a bad thing.

Botto Bistro, the California-based Italian eatery co-owned and operated by Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo, are actively encouraging patrons to provide one-star reviews of their restaurant to protest the popular online review website Yelp

Why encourage negative reviews?

The owners of Botto Bistro believe that Yelp gives preferential treatment to businesses that pay for advertising, putting other companies, like their Italian restaurant, in a tough position.

And, a recent court ruling states that there is nothing wrong with Yelp's practices. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has found that it is perfectly legal for Yelp to alter ratings based off of money (a practice Yelp vehemently denies). 

Although extreme and not for all businesses, Botto Bistro's methods are certainly getting attention. However, here are three other strategies to help deal with negative reviews:

1. Remain calm, cool and collected
Always keep your cool - overreacting can be very bad for your business. Don't take to the Internet to blast this user and avoid posting your problems on social media. If you can't do this, appoint someone in your company who can. Above all else, treat a poor Yelp review like an in-store complaint. Use your existing customer service policies to dictate your response.

2. Take the high road
When you are ready to respond, take the high road at all times. Counter with a solution to the problem and remain polite. You should post your response publicly on Yelp, so all other users can see it and see that you care about customer services. 

3. Remain consistent
Above all else, keep your responses consistent. Don't treat one customer with respect and go overboard with another. Remember, use your in-store policies to control your behavior and always act professional. This will make your business appear favorable, no matter the reviews you've received online.

What do you think about Botto Bistro's Yelp strategy? Weigh in below. 

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"Shop Local" Campaign Ideas You Can Actually Use This Holiday Season

The holiday season - which essentially extends from pre-Halloween all the way through the New Year, is a great time for business owners to tap into their local communities.  

To make the most of the season, here are three tips on how you can drive customers to shop local, rather than buy from the big brands online or at chain stores. 

1. Consider embracing a partnership with local media outlets to help drive attention to your brand

2. Investigate whether it would be possible to team up and cross-promote products with other small local businesses

3. Incorporate "local labels" onto your products, so that your customers can clearly tell that they're supporting local products and production.

Take Halloween for one example. If you're looking to draw more local customers, you may want to stock and advertise locally-created snacks and treats for shoppers to give out to their local trick-or-treaters.

The local products will reinforce the belief among your customers that you're dedicated to your community as much as you are to your business. 

How are you encouraging your community to shop local this holiday season? Tell us in the comments below.

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Small Businesses Are Looking to Hire for the Holidays, New Survey Shows

For most small business owners, the holiday rush (hopefully) means an increase in sales. That's why it should come as no surprise that many small business owners are looking to hire new staff - either seasonal or permanent - in the lead up to the holiday season. 

According to findings from the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard survey, of those planning to invest in their business, 52% are doing so by adding new employees in the fourth quarter. While hiring figures are down year-over-year, it seems that they're going to rebound in a very big way across the next few months. 

"The businesses that we work with are your mom and pop shops, your really tight-knit operations with just two or three employees, and a really high number of them have worked their way into profitability," said SurePayroll General Manager Andy Roe on the hiring increase. "It's tremendous and the excitement is really back in the air for small businesses heading into the year-end stretch."

Additionally, the average amount of employees held by the companies polled was merely six workers - showing that the companies planning to hire in the next few months are hardly major corporations.

Are you planning on hiring a seasonal employee this holiday season? Tell us in the comments below. 

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