• A Week to Prepare Your Tax Return? Typical

    (charts: NSBA 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey)

    And I thought the three full days I spent preparing my self-employed tax return last week was painful. Turns out most Yahoo! Small Business readers probably have it even worse.

    A survey released today by the National Small Business Association indicates that a majority (60 percent) of small businesses spend more than 40 hours per year grappling with the complex and inconsistent federal tax code, and 40 percent spend more than 80 hours.

    In addition, the organization's 2014 Small Business Taxation Survey revealed that 86 percent of owners must pay an external tax practitioner or accountant to handle their taxes; nearly a third spend more than $10,000 annually on federal tax preparation; and nearly half spend more than $5,000 in the form of accountant fees, internal costs, and legal fees.

    As NSBA First Vice Chair Tim Reynolds testified yesterday to the House Committee on Small Business, "This is before they even pay their actual taxes!"

    The NSBA survey release was timed to coincide with

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  • The early years of a startup can be chaotic and desperate. Even a great idea needs capital to get off the ground. In the beginning you need cash, so you chase every opportunity. You say “yes” to anything and everything because you need clients; you need investment; you need to turn your idea into an actual business. You are excited and you want to grow, so everyone who offers you money is a potential client, a potential investor, someone you need.

    Unfortunately, every thoughtless “yes” leads you further into a trap. Too quickly you’ll take on too many things. You’ll have differentiated into too many products, options, and services, in an effort to please anyone who shows even a hint of interest in your company. In a few years, your company is just okay at a whole bunch of things instead of great at a few.

    Saying “yes” disrupts your focus.

    When you started your business, you probably had one great idea. You knew what you wanted to do, what kind of business you wanted to have. There was

    Read More »from Focus: The Most Important Quality Your Startup Needs
  • Why You Must Always Test An App Before Launch

    Business owners are hearing a lot about why they should build mobile apps: they’re great tools for marketing, good for building brand loyalty, useful for customer retention, practical for gathering customer data.

    Sure, but an app can really backfire for your company if it doesn’t work, gets bad reviews, or creates problems such as security breaches.

    Kevin Surace is CEO of Appvance, a company that provides app testing and validation. He says it’s a huge mistake to launch your new app without testing it first. And he says your app developer is not the person to do that. Yahoo! Small Business spoke with him about why and how you need to test your mobile or web apps before launch.

    Your company tests mobile and web apps for performance and security risks and can determine the root cause of bottlenecks when there are millions of users. This doesn’t sound like a service for the typical small business owner.

    Today, there are small companies that put out apps—startups that don’t have 5 people

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  • The founder of Stella & Dot discusses leadership, emotional intelligence, and an "angel in a cowboy hat."

    Jessica Herrin is the founder and chief executive of Stella & Dot, a jewelry maker that sells its wares online and through over 10,000 independent, in-home sales reps dubbed "stylists." Herrin founded the company in 2003, offering both made jewelry and a do-it-yourself jewelry-making option. She honed in on made jewelry only in 2006. Previously, Herrin cofounded WeddingChannel.com, an online wedding planning resource guide and registry sold to TheKnot.com for $78 million in 2007. She received her B.A. from Stanford in 1994 and then attended the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

    In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?

    Democratizing entrepreneurship by providing a flexible entrepreneurship platform for the modern woman.

    What is the best advice you've ever received?

    Jessica HerrinA former board member told me if I wanted to run or build a large company, I

    Read More »from “The Happiness Business”
  • CalendarEveryone has distractions:

    • Projects need to be completed
    • Emails need to be answered
    • Phone calls need to be returned

    When you allow distractions to take over your day it’s kind of obvious that your productivity drops. The challenge is to manage the distractions that come at you from every direction. The points mentioned above are not necessarily distractions because they are likely part of your job. However, how you react to these tasks can turn them into distractions if they are preventing you from getting the most important things done. Of course, you cannot always manage them away and cause them to disappear. However, you can control how you react to them and how you respond and when.

    Your calendar is your (not-so-secret) solution

    You calendar can and should be used as the way to keep track of your day, your time, your projects and to some extent your life. No, your calendar is not your life. However, your calendar often determines how productive you will be on any given day.

    Read More »from Productivity: Choose your distractions, don’t let them choose you
  • SBA Seeks to Recognize Innovative Small Businesses

    The U.S. Small Business Administration this week issued a call for nominations for its two annual contests: the Tibbetts Awards and the Small Business Innovation Research Hall of Fame Awards. The deadline for nominations is May 2 at 11:59 pm, and awards will be presented in June during the annual SBIR National Conference at the National Harbor.

    The Tibbetts Awards, named for Roland Tibbetts, known as the father of the federal government's Small Business Innovation Research program, go to small businesses and individuals who exemplify the best of the program, and promote its mission and goals, as well as those of the related Small Business Technology Transfer program.

    But your business does not need to be a recipient of SBIR assistance to win: One type of Tibbetts prize will go to any businesses that have participated in the SBIR or STTR Phase I and II award programs. A second type will go to individuals who have not received assistance but supported the programs. A maximum of 60 awards

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  • Filmmakers Capture Small Business Stories on a National Roadtrip

    Small business owner Sean O'Toole is among the first to be featured in a new short film campaign

    The first two three-minute movies posted to the Small Business Road Trip web site—about a hat shop in Manhattan and a dog grooming boutique in the city’s South Street Seaport—are touching enough to inspire you to start your own business (or perhaps just join the road trip).

    New York independent filmmaker Trisha Dalton and cinematographer John Sears started a 10-week cross-country tour yesterday as part of the “I Am Small Business Proud” campaign sponsored by Spark Business from CapitalOne. Starting with New York, where they hit a dozen businesses before moving on to New Jersey, the duo will travel 7,300 miles and stop in more than 35 cities including Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, Austin, Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles “gathering exclusive content and insights into the lives of small business owners.”

    Viewers of their captivating mini-films have already learned how JJ Hat Center owner Sean O’Toole watched his parents bring their business back after the 9/11

    Read More »from Filmmakers Capture Small Business Stories on a National Roadtrip
  • James Gutierrez, MBA '05, discusses how he built Progreso Financiero, where he gets his best ideas, and the best advice he's ever received.

    James Gutierrez is an entrepreneur and investor. In 2005, Gutierrez founded Progreso Financiero to bring micro-lending to the U.S. Hispanic community and help thousands of families build credit and achieve their economic dreams. Since 2006, Progreso has made more than 250,000 loans through 83 locations in California and Texas. Gutierrez left Progreso in 2012 to pursue his next entrepreneurial venture.

    As a former member of the Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Advisory Council, Gutierrez helped draft new policies on expanding financial opportunities for lower-income communities such as Title XII in Dodd-Frank and SB 1146, which increases the availability of safe and affordable small-dollar loans in California. He serves on the boards of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, Sponsors for

    Read More »from Hire Missionaries, Not Mercenaries
  • Customer Loyalty Programs Slowly Gain Traction

    source: Manta and BIA/Kelsey

    Small business owners now spend the majority of their marketing budgets, time, and efforts on retaining and developing relationships with existing customers. They spend less than half of their money or time on new customer acquisition.

    The findings of a study released today by Manta and BIA/Kelsey, which surveyed nearly 1,000 small business owners, are in stark contrast to previous studies the organizations conducted. Just two years ago, a BIA/Kelsey study found that small business owners’ primary focus was on new customer acquisition; in fact, they spent 7 times more on acquiring customers than on retaining existing ones.

    The same 2012 study found that only 6 percent of small businesses were spending more than half of their budgets on keeping customers. And yet more than 61 percent of respondents to the 2014 survey claim they generate more than half of their annual revenue from repeat customers rather than new customers.

    The co-authors of the new report, “Achieving Big Customer

    Read More »from Customer Loyalty Programs Slowly Gain Traction
  • Entering the real world is exciting. For young professionals this often means getting your first career-track job, moving into your own place and taking full control of your finances. While everyone wants to get started on the right foot, there are some common mistakes young professionals make that can have long-lasting impact.

    1. Figuring It Out Later

    This is a time in your life when you may find yourself making many big decisions in a small amount of time. Don’t say yes and figure it out later. Before you sign a lease or mortgage, determine whether you can afford it. The easiest way to do this is to create a budget. You may think you need to wait a while until your expenses "normalize" since when you first move into a place, there can be one-time costs like furniture and security deposits. But if you wait a few months, you may find yourself already in some serious debt.

    Do some research and make a budget immediately. Then adjust your budget when you see how much money you are

    Read More »from 3 Mistakes Young Professionals Make

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