Tag Archive | "small business"

Incorporate Your Business

Many small businesses consider themselves too small to worry about incorporation. However, whether you’re a self-employed social media consultant or a landscaper, incorporating or forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be a smart idea. Here’s why:

1. Liability protection. First and foremost, the LLC and C Corporation, or S Corporation, protect the owner’s personal assets from any liability of the company. That is, if your company happens to be sued, your personal assets are shielded from any judgment. Of course, lawsuits are worst-case scenarios and there’s a slim chance you’ll ever run into legal problems. However, if you’re sued as a sole proprietor, you’ll be sued personally. And that means everything—from your children’s college fund to your retirement savings—is at risk. Also keep in mind that creditor judgments can last up to 22 years, so you need to worry not only about protecting the assets you have today, but the assets you’ll have tomorrow.

2. Taxes. Federal income tax rates can be lower for corporations than for individuals. And as a corporation, you may be entitled to additional deductions.

3. Credibility. Adding ‘LLC’ or ‘Inc.’ after your company name boosts your credibility in the eyes of some customers and partners.

4. Business credit/capital. As a corporation or LLC, it can be easier for you to access a line of business credit. And forming a C Corporation will be essential if you plan to seek venture capital funding.

5. Added layer of privacy. With an LLC or a corporation, in most cases the company’s registered agent goes on public record instead of your home or business address.

This article was written by Nellie Akalp and published in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

5 Tips to Keep Your Small Business Out Of Court

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to do everything within your means to limit risk and to keep the business running smoothly. But how does one go about limiting the possibility of a lawsuit to ensure business continuity? In this article, we’ll take a look at five actions you can take today to protect your company for tomorrow.

1. Watch what you say and do.

First of all, when it comes to your business image, owners and their employees should avoid making any public announcements or conducting any business that might be considered questionable. This means avoiding things like libelous or potentially slanderous statements, but it also means not doing business with unscrupulous individuals. You may not think it’s a problem working for a group of individuals who are known for shoddy business practices — because you know your company’s ethics are above reproach — but if they take a hit, your company’s name may be linked to them in the fallout.

This point also includes limiting any possible conflicts of interest. Business owners and their employees must avoid situations where a conflict of interest may present itself. Situations such as these can damage your integrity as a business owner and could land you in legal hot water. For example, sitting on the town council and helping pass an ordinance that benefits your business would be a conflict of interest, even if you didn’t make a decision with any benefit for your company.

2. Hire a competent attorney

Business owners should interview attorneys when they first start up, in order to have a ready legal contact. You may need this person to advise you before you act or on how to react when you’ve been sued.

Owners should also attempt to secure an attorney that is familiar with local laws and customs in the area in which the business operates. Care should also be taken to retain an attorney with expertise in a particular field if necessary. If your company is anticipating legal challenges from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or taxation state department it makes sense to hire a tax attorney.

There are several potential resources to help you find a good attorney. These include cold calling and interviewing from the phone book, professional references from other business owners, or through the professional organizations to which the company belongs (like the local chamber of commerce or any sector association).

3. Separate yourself from your business

Many business owners own and operate their businesses as sole proprietorships. The only problem with this is that in the event the company is sued, the owner’s individual assets (such as their cars or home) are fairly easy to attack or attach in a court of law.
The solution to this, or at least a way to limit the possibility that the owner’s personal assets might be the target of a suit, is to have a trust own the business.

A trust is a legal entity that, in most cases, files its own tax return and can own property, businesses, cash, securities and a host of other assets. If a business is owned by a properly established trust, and it is sued, in most cases the only assets that can be attacked or attached in a court of law are those that are in the trust itself.

Incorporating separates your company’s finances from your own. This makes your house and personal wealth safe from attack even in the event you lose your business in a judgment. The downside to incorporating can come from understanding and keeping up with the additional laws, reports and taxes that the government requires for a corporation.

4. Insure yourself

All businesses should obtain liability insurance in case (for example), a customer was to slip and fall in your place of business. Certain professionals, such as insurance agents and/or consultants, should also consider obtaining errors and omissions coverage to ensure the business should a customer or client accuses the owner of making some sort of error, or not living up to a contract.

If the business is large and has a formal board of directors, it may also make sense to secure directors and officers liability (D&O) insurance. Once purchased, this insurance protects the directors’ personal assets in a larger suit against the company.
In addition to purchasing insurance, another way to insure yourself against liability is to build protection into your contracts.

If an act of nature, a specific supplier or some other uncontrollable act can make it impossible for you to fulfill a contract (and thus open yourself up to legal action) then you should be putting to ink that you are not liable for incomplete work due to these factors. Discussing the possible clauses and legal phrases needed in your work contracts is one of the best ways to employ your lawyer’s time and it will reduce your need for a lawyer later on in your business venture.

5. Protect your files

As most businesses these days work quite intensively on computers, it makes sense to emphasize the safety requirements for your computer system. Businesses should have updated antivirus and other types of security software loaded and activated on their systems. If a computer system were to go down because of a virus, the business may be at risk of not being able to perform certain contracted work. In addition, key files could be lost or stolen, which could then lead to legal action from clients and/or suppliers.

Employ backups
In the event of a massive technological breakdown, you should have a set of backed up files to refer to. This could mean performing daily, weekly or even monthly backups, and making your clients aware of which you employ. Keeping these backup files offsite will also help to ensure your company’s continued safety. If you keep these files at your place of business, it is necessary to purchase a fireproof safe in which to store your files. Should the very worst happen to the rest of your materials and supplies, your backups would be protected.

Additional safeties
In the event of a disaster such as a hurricane or fire, will your business be able to function? Failure to operate could lead to the company’s inability to live up to certain contractual obligations or to satisfy other legal or financial agreements.
Consider securing alternative work sites, portable generators, call trees and/or ways to have employees work remotely to make it a little easier for your company to perform its work when the the forces of nature throw you a curve-ball.

Bottom line
Business owners have the responsibility to protect their companies and their personal assets in the event of a lawsuit. With these five actions under your belt, your business should be well on its way to a legal- and hassle-free future.

This article was written by Glenn Curtis and published in Small business on msnbc.com.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

Charting Your Path to Market Mastery

Despite all the doom and gloom, some entrepreneurs are managing to make a significant amount of money during these tough economic times. What are they doing differently? These people have carved out a niche to differentiate themselves from competitors and become masters in their field.

How do you get on the road to mastery? According to Outliers: The Story of Success, authored by Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice in a specific area to achieve true mastery. Here are six tips you can follow to help achieve mastery in your market – no matter the size of your business.

1. Educate yourself. Learning happens in a variety of forums. Getting an MBA or other formal education might help open the door to some companies, but it’s not a requirement to start your own business. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and scores of other companies are filled with founders who don’t have college degrees. They did, however, make a point to continue learning about their industries. Whether you enroll in a course on your topic area or work in that market, the key is to continuously deepen your knowledge and experience in your chosen field.

2. Focus on your signature strengths. If you can’t figure out where to apply your considerable energy and talent, I suggest you get on the “signature” strength bandwagon. In researching character strengths and virtues, University of Michigan’s Christopher Peterson, PhD, and University of Pennsylvania’s Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, found that people who operate in their signature strengths (their most significant character traits) were happier and more engaged in life and at work.

Peterson developed a survey that can help identify your top five strengths. It’s a great start. Gallup also has a book to determine your true passions. If you take both tests, look for the trends. They’ll either confirm what you already know or open a path that has been dormant.

3. Read. If you can find the time to read at least one book a month in your topic area, you will have more information than the vast majority of people in your chosen field. Audiobooks work, too, of course. No matter how you learn, what’s most important is to stay informed.

4. Write. Start penning articles for trade magazines and professional associations in your area of expertise. There are a number of organizations looking for relevant content that provides expert advice and practical information. Writing also makes you sharper in your niche because you have to think about it differently.

5. Be a trendsetter. Once you’re up to speed on the latest trends in your industry, form opinions – all the better if they are sometimes counter to what’s popular. Then, start a blog. But don’t regurgitate what everyone else already knows. Be brave, share your views and don’t worry about everyone agreeing with you. Mastery isn’t for the faint of heart.

6. Speak. I speak around the world on the topic of effective performance with a focus on emotional management and neuroscience. It’s a great way to make a living and an excellent way to teach and inspire large crowds. You have to know your topic inside-and-out, if you’re going to open yourself up to a live crowd. To get started, check out your local chapter of the National Speakers Association.

It’s the era of the niche. Delve deep into what you love to do. Learn more, think more, discuss more and teach more. Become the go-to person in your arena and you’ll be well on your way to mastery.

This article was written by Scott Halford and published by Entrepreneur magazine.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

New Technology Guide Helps Entrepreneurs Grow Their Small Businesses and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON-A new technology tool for small businesses is now available to help them grow and create jobs. The new education resource, Business Technology Simplified, helps small business owners connect the dots between entrepreneurship and technology to give them a competitive edge.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and Microsoft have teamed up to develop this free, comprehensive guide on how technology can improve the small business owner’s chances for success. reported Business Wire. The Business Technology Simplified guidebook includes fundamentals on the importance of technology, and on how it can be used to achieve a business’s goals. In the guidebook’s foreword, Earvin “Magic” Johnson writes about his journey in developing a multimillion dollar company and the value of technology to remain competitive.

“Our goal as an agency is to get information, tools and services into the hands of small business owners more quickly so they can spend more time doing what they do best – creating the jobs that will drive our economic recovery,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “This new guidebook is one more tool available to support small business growth through access to information and resources.”

Business Technology Simplified offers straightforward tips on how to use technology and innovation to make businesses work more efficiently. The guidebook incorporates relevant and practical material on simplifying work tasks, do it yourself marketing, cloud computing, time management, finding and cultivating customers, and much more.

“Small businesses, which employ nearly 50 percent of the U.S. work force, rely on trustworthy technology that is easily adaptable and scalable to support growth and give them freedom to focus on the innovation and passion that drives their businesses,” said Cindy Bates, Microsoft’s vice president of U.S. Small and Medium Business. “We are thrilled to continue our long-standing relationship with the SBA and small businesses by providing this free resource that will arm this community with the technology know-how to safely and smartly grow their businesses in many strategic ways.”

Business Technology Simplified is available in a printed format in SBA district offices and local SBA resource partners, or may be accessed online as an electronic publication and as an electronic distance learning course. The new online course has been created for self-paced access to practical guidance on applying technology to build and grow strong companies.

The Business Technology Simplified online course allows quick access by small business owners to learn more about basic technology tools that can help their companies run more efficiently. The course features an audio guided lesson indexed by modules that includes information on how to use technology to save time in day-to-day tasks, how to better manage a business, mobile solutions that work, and tips on expanding customer base.

To access the course, go to www.sba.gov/training, then click Business Technology Simplified in the Highlighted Courses section. It is one of nearly 30 online tutorials offered by the SBA, and is available 24/7.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

How to Give New Hires a Great Start

A number of small businesses focus on providing new hires with only the basic information and skills needed to perform their job. However, going beyond the standard orientation process can enable new hires to become successful in the workplace more quickly, and help ensure that the new partnership will be long and advantageous. The key is offering employees a chance to learn the organization’s customs and jargon and connect personally with new colleagues.

A new hire’s attitude about your business generally takes shape quickly, and can affect their long-term outlook and commitment to the company. Many employees typically make their decision to stay or quit within their first six months on the job.

So, how can your small business turn employees’ first impressions into a lasting and prosperous relationship? Here are examples of how three small businesses are going beyond the basic employee orientation.

1. Connect with them early and personally.
When candidates accept an offer to work at SnagAJob.com, an hourly job site based in Glen Valley, Va., chief executive Shawn Boyer mails them a handwritten congratulatory note and a $100 American Express gift card as a token of thanks to celebrate their new job.

On their first day, new hires are assigned a department “buddy” who gives them a tour of the office, introduces them to their colleagues and serves as a mentor during the first few weeks. New “Snaggers,” as employees there are called, also complete an office scavenger hunt and a “Confessions of a New Snagger” questionnaire. This Q&A covers personal trivia about the new hire, such as pets, children, hobbies, and other interests. Once completed, the answers are emailed to all employees and also posted on the company’s intranet, along with the employee’s photo. Snaggers are then quizzed on the bits of personal information shared in these questionnaires during weekly staff meetings. Correct answers are rewarded with candy.

While fun, these activities make an impression on new hires. “I never felt like the ‘new person,'” says one new Snagger. “I didn’t have to go out of my way to prove myself to anyone. There was the implicit assumption that since I was hired I must be good enough to handle the job. That level of trust is refreshing and made my transition to SnagAJob.com easier.”

2. Make the introduction about more than just the handbook.
Some employee orientations include a strong dose of organizational culture and history, as well as participation from senior leaders. At RadioFlyer, the Chicago-based maker of children’s toys, new Flyers join “chief wagon officer” Robert Pasin for breakfast. Pasin shares the history of the company as well as his personal stories of mistakes, successes and lessons learned. He answers questions and covers his expectations for team members to help RadioFlyer continue its success.

New employees also hear more about the company’s values over lunch with members of the company’s Vision, Mission and Values Committee, Its members are people who have been recognized by peers for living the company values every day.

New Flyers also get a first-hand look at the company’s products. New hires complete an audit of customers’ retail experiences and assemble RadioFlyer products. These practices help new employees learn about the products as well as their customers. Employees even get to keep a few of the products they assemble.

3. Treat new hires like equals.
At some companies, new employees wait through a probationary period before gaining full benefits and status. Pinnacol Assurance, a Denver-based provider of workers compensation insurance with about 630 employees, treats new hires as equals immediately, speeding their assimilation into the business. For instance, new hires are eligible to begin using their paid days off as early as their first day. Employees get up to 20 days off during their first full year.

A great welcome can make a lasting impact. Efforts to bring new hires into the culture, and not just the job, can reap benefits of shorter learning curves, stronger employee commitment, and reduced turnover. Leaders who take the opportunity to make new hires feel welcome can make a lasting impression that turns into a long-term advantage.

This article was written by Marcus Erb and published in Entrepreneur.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (0)

IRS Helps Small Business Claim Health Care Tax Credits

The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released its final guidance, including a one-page form and instructions, for employers eligible to claim the new small business health care tax credit for the 2010 tax year.

Included in the Affordable Care Act enacted in March this year, the IRS confirmed that the small business health care tax credit is designed to encourage both small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations to offer health insurance coverage to their employees for the first time or maintain coverage they already have, reported Tax-News.com.

The new guidance addresses small business questions about which firms qualify for the credit by clarifying that a broad range of employers meet the eligibility requirements, including small employers that cover their workers through insured multi-employer health and welfare plans, and employers that subsidize their employees’ health care costs through a broad range of contribution arrangements.

In general, the credit is available to small employers that pay at least half of the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees. It is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that primarily employ moderate- and lower-income workers.

Small businesses can claim the credit in the period from 2010 to 2013, and for any two years after that. For the tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible small businesses and 25 percent of premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations. Beginning in 2014, the maximum tax credit will increase to 50 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 35% of premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations.

The maximum credit goes to smaller employers – those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees – paying annual average wages of USD25,000 or less per year. The credit is completely phased out for employers that have 25 or more FTEs or that pay average wages of USD50,000 or more per year. Because the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs, not the number of employees, employers that use part-time workers may qualify even if they employ more than 25 individuals.

Posted in Small Business TipsComments (1)

Page 10 of 12« First...89101112