• Pessimistic small business owners react to election

    Which of the following describes how you feel about the general economic outlook for your business now that the presidential election has been decided? More optimistic, less optimistic, or exactly the same? Judging by reader responses to our post-election post in this blog, SmallBizVote readers largely agree with the 59 percent of the 1,227 small business owners surveyed immediately after the election by Manta who say "less optimistic." Only 23 percent of respondents to that survey said they feel "more optimistic."

    Several commenters to our blog suggested that they would be making layoffs, selling their companies, or entering retirement due to the hardships they foresee during four more years of Obama Administration policies.

    Some might sympathize with a Las Vegas business owner who, as Salon reported today, fired 22 of his 100+ employees after the election, citing the cost of Obama's policies to his business. Or they might applaud the CEO of the country's largest coal company, Robert

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  • Post election – healthcare and credit: Small Business Reading

    The election is over - but as we discussed many times prior to election day, it doesn't really settle anything for small businesses. Neither candidate offered anything really concrete in terms of proposals and about all we were left with were a host of uncertainties around healthcare and taxation. In reality neither of these will make the slightest bit of difference for the average 2-person or less small business but that doesn't mean the issues aren't important. It would have been great to hear something addressing the burden of regulation (especially at the state level) or solutions for easier access to credit. We don't have any silver bullets for you here at Yahoo! Small Business Advisor but we do have a little glimmer of hope in this week's best reading. First off - don't forget the invaluable SBA - it's always a wise first stop for any small business and is one part of government that is firmly on your side. First up - access to credit. We ran a short piece on how your personal Read More »from Post election – healthcare and credit: Small Business Reading
  • Short- and long-term cash access strategies for small biz

    A recent Profit Minded post featured our conversation with Jay DesMarteau, head of small business banking at TD Bank, about how small business owners can face down financial stress with a real-world financial plan. Here, in part two of our interview, DesMarteau shares advice for accessing capital when you need it. He offers tips for setting yourself up to get through temporary periods when expenses outweigh revenues, as well as for planning for long-term growth.

    Following DesMarteau's earlier advice for putting a financial plan in place will help you identify the gaps in your business cycle—whether they be week-long or month-long intervals—when you will not have enough income to cover your costs. "These are times when you don't have money coming from customers on the revenue side but your expenses are still there," DesMarteau says. "You have to pay employees, and you might have to buy inventory that takes time to convert into a product you can sell."

    Of course, business owners can

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  • Organizations that have exceptional service cultures don't happen by accident. They are the result of a defined customer service strategy. Customer service practices should be incorporated into business goals that impact corporate objectives. This is accomplished by having a defined customer service strategy.

    A customer service strategy consists of:

    A Vision for Customer Service
    Communicating the customer service vision is an important first step in service strategy. Employees need to understand their role in meeting the needs of customers and how their work contributes to the vision. It is easy to recognize businesses that are strong in service and those that aren't. Service training is the key to a great customer service experience.

    Assessing Customer Needs
    It is important to find out what the customer needs and expects. There are several approaches to soliciting customer feedback. It can be done by using customer comment cards, satisfaction surveys or focus groups. Each method can

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  • Election uncertainty over for small businesses; now what?

    Throughout campaign season, many small business owners reported paralysis over pursuing growth or hiring due to uncertainty about what kind of administration they'd face for the next four years. Would ObamaCare be repealed? Would the regulatory environment ease up? Would tax rates increase?

    This morning, no question remains about who will lead the country for the next four years, and it's more likely than ever that the Affordable Care Act will remain in tact.

    But much uncertainty remains. Small businesses still can't be sure just what the new health care act will cost them come 2014 when it goes into full effect. And yesterday's election outcome brought virtually no change to the partisan split on Capitol Hill, with Republicans ruling the House and Democrats ruling the Senate, which leaves great uncertainty about the so-called fiscal cliff and tax rates.

    Of that status, the Wall Street Journal editors this morning warned:

    "Mr. Obama will now have to govern the America he so

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  • The Role Your Personal Credit Score Plays in Start-Up Financing

    by Michael Germanovsky

    When people think of starting a business, one of the first things they might consider is writing a business plan. Identifying a source of funding is a large part of it. A successful business takes cash flow to sustain it and investment to grow it. We all know investors are hard to come by. So there are two basic ways to fund the start-up costs for a small business. One way is a traditional business loan and the other is a line of credit.

    If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, then be kind to your credit and it will be there for you when you need it. Your credit does not have to be perfect to get a loan or credit extension to start a business, but the better your credit history the better your chances to obtain start-up financing.

    About half of small businesses fail within the first five years, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Even with low start-up costs and low overhead there are still going to be those times when credit is needed in the

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  • Sandy, disaster preparedness, free money: Small Business Reading

    Last week in Small Business Reading we managed to be just a tiny bit prescient when we highlighted the often-overlooked topic of emergency planning. As everyone knows, that has come back with a vengeance with the arrival of Sandy on the Eastern Seaboard. For those small businesses in the affected area, the SBA is making disaster loans available. It's also worth noting that some of the small businesses in the disaster area managed to keep thins going using old-fashioned word-of-mouth and its modern replacement - social media. Part of the reason they were able to do that are the large number of tools available for small businesses based on smartphones and tablets - which will at least keep running for a few more hours when the power goes out and which are easier to recharge. This article has a few simple tips on ways to keep gadgets running when the power goes out. For those truly unfortunate enough to have their business dreams dashed, perhaps the best way to recover is to face your

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  • Self-employed head to polls with unanswered questions

    NASE's Facebook button

    With only three days to go before they head to the polls, self-employed voters are disappointed with the Presidential candidates, each of whom made small business owners a centerpiece of his platform. Katie Vlietstra, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association for the Self-Employed, says the organization submitted 10 questions in September to President Obama and Governor Romney's campaigns on behalf of the nation's 22 million sole proprietors and micro-business owners—a group she says represents more than 70 percent of the small business community.

    NASE, which is non-partisan and does not endorse a candidate, promised to use the candidates' answers to educate and inform its membership about the positions of each on small business taxes and economic recovery "so that they may make the best decision for their business in November." But November is here and the answers never came.

    To be fair, Vlietstra acknowledges that hundreds of constituent groups submit

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  • By Jonathan Poston

    If business "branding" were as simple as its namesake might lead us to believe, then it would just be a matter of heating up the iron and swiftly searing it deeply into the hides of the jumpy target market. Effectively branding businesses involves tagging targets who, unlike their four-legged friends, have already been lashed with hundreds of hot pokers from more established ten-gallon hat ranchers. But, with a steady hand, and a solid grasp of effective technique, there's still room among the herds for new firebrands to make their mark.

    Here are three rules to follow before heating up the branding irons.

    1) Brand names aren't everything, but there are caveats to keep in mind when choosing one. Some marketing firms, perhaps the ones that like to charge 10-20k to conjure out of thin air a slick new name for their clients, will say a name can make or break a business. While partially true, it's not everything. But here's the part that is important: Select a name that

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  • Business in a hurricane disaster area? Here’s SBA loan info

    The most-visited item on the Small Business Administration's loan information website today is the Disaster Loan Application. SBA announced yesterday that various disaster recovery loan programs will become available to eligible applicants as disaster assessments and declarations are made.

    President Obama has already declared disaster areas in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and additional announcements are expected.

    If your small business sustained physical damage or "economic injury" as a result of Hurricane Sandy, you may be eligible for SBA assistance. Businesses must submit loan applications directly to SBA in order to get an inspector to estimate damages. SBA says it strives to make decisions within 18 days, and advises against waiting for insurance settlements before applying for an SBA loan in order to avoid missing filing deadlines. The application-filing deadline for physical damage loans is December 31, 2012. The deadline for economic injury loans is July 31, 2013.

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