Monthly Archives: April 2014

CASHING IN ON SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM

small business openFor the first time in five years, small-business owners are feeling more optimistic about their prospects, according to the recently released Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. Specifically, the index rose 21 points for the first quarter of 2014 to +45, which is the highest it’s been since the third quarter of 2008. The results are based on a January survey of 603 U.S. small-business owners.

Much of the increase in optimism has to do with the general improvement of the economy as a whole. The complete survey results [PDF] show that specific triggers of the shift include better access to credit, anticipated increases in revenue and staffing, and improved cash flow.

Of course, small-business owners continue to face some very real challenges: According to the Index, 21 percent of those surveyed say generating new business is currently their biggest hurdle. Other obstacles include government regulations, hiring, and health care.

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

If you’re feeling optimistic about the future, why not seize the opportunity to invest in your business? Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Make renovations. If you’ve been putting off major renovations to your office or another essential aspect of your small business, now is the time to seriously consider an upgrade. Set aside time to crunch the numbers to determine whether the investment is feasible. Building renovations often result in improved conditions for your employees, which can be a good way toincrease loyalty over time.

2. Update your technology. If your software is outdated, update it. End of story. Yes, it costs money, but if you have a bit extra in the kitty right now, use it. Obsolete software leaves your company computers more vulnerable to hackers and viruses, the damage from which can be even more costly to repair.

3. Hire additional staff. If your employees have been running ragged to keep up with the tasks assigned to them due to previous budget cuts, now is the time to consider loosening the purse strings a bit. Bringing on new staff can reduce workplace stress and enable each employee to do the best job possible.

4. Advance your skill set. If you’ve been putting off training for financial reasons, you don’t need to hold back anymore. Go ahead and pay for courses or seminars. Or, invest in training for your employees to advance their skill sets as well. The more you all know, the better prepared you’ll be to overcome the specific challenges of your industry.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/trends/cashing-in-on-small-business-optimism/#ixzz2zzsBIYGx

If you have questions about small business optimism, please  call your “trusted small business advisor” today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

 

SKYPE YOUR WAY TO A BETTER BOTTOM LINE

Since its release in 2003, Skype — the world’s first practical VoIP service with video — has enabled geographically distant colleagues to converse as close as face-to-face as possible without being in the same place at the same time. Businesses big and small have adopted and adapted the service to lower costs and increase revenues in interesting  ways.

Here’s how various entrepreneurs and organizations are using Skype to their advantage, plus five features that may boost your bottom line.

Skype on the Job

Jason McCoy, a voice-over artist who operates McCoy Productions, uses Skype as a way to let his remote clients virtually sit in on his recording sessions for them.

“Producers and directors listen in as I record in my studio and provide me with feedback and direction,” McCoy says. “Skype is patched into my studio so that only my end of the conversation is recorded, but I can hear the client through my headphones the whole time.” Involving clients in the recording process reduces the time McCoy needs to deliver the perfect recording, he says.

Lori Feldman, who runs the consulting firm Database Diva, keeps a Skype chat window open with her four co-workers throughout the course of the business day, even though they are all located in the same room.

“Skype allows us to coach each other privately without clients knowing that we’re doing so,” Feldman explains. “For example, as a salesperson, I may be talking to a client who has a technical question. Instead of putting the client on hold to track down our programmer, I just Skype-chat him. He responds via chat, and I don’t disrupt the flow of my sales call. Skype helps us collaborate more effectively to close more sales.”

Speech and language pathologist Ita Olsen, who owns OlsenSpeech, coaches her clients via Skype. Contrary to her initial beliefs, she says, video chat is more effective than in-person coaching.

“Speech pathologists have traditionally needed to implement cues, things to help people to use their new speaking skills in all areas of their lives into their training. Traditionally, a client works on their speech in a faux training room and then goes out in the real world and has nothing to remind him to use his new speech skills,” Olsen explains.

“When a person is working with me in their own office or in their kitchen, everything around them becomes a cue, a reminder to use their skills. When I Skype with a client, they can see themselves,” she says. “This helps them work on facial expressions, body language, and even how to use their mouth to speak. That makes the webcam training more efficient.”

Emergency Medical Care in New York created a new division to provide telemedicine services to area nursing homes. “The doctor sees the patient through Skype, and the nurse on the other end takes the patient’s vital signs and manages the webcam to help the doctor evaluate the patient. We have even seen patients through the Skype app on our tablets,” says Dr. Steve Okhravi, the company’s CEO and founder. “This is a very promising venture for us.”

5 Lucrative Features

Use these built-in features of Skype to save — and make — money.

  1. Screen-sharing — Sharing your screen with a customer or colleague is free on Skype. Windows PC users can right-click during a video call on Share Your Screen. (Mac users simply click Share Screen.) Group screen sharing is available with Skype’s Premium service, $10/month. You can view presentations, do consultations, or collaborate on projects or upcoming assignments.
  2. Call recording — Skype doesn’t natively support call recording, but various third-party providers do. Record calls to save time and money on activities such as employee orientations, product introductions, or business meetings (for clients or staff members who were unable to attend in real time).
  3. Call forwarding — You can forward Skype calls to a second Skype contact for free. To send calls to your mobile phone, you will need to purchase Skype credits (2.3 cents per minute in the U.S.) or a one-, three-, or 12-month subscription. It doesn’t matter if your computer is on, the forwarding is handled on the back end by Skype.
  4. Remote monitoring — Use this feature to keep tabs on your office after hours while you’re out to make sure lights haven’t been left on or there hasn’t been a break-in. Here’s how: Set up two Skype accounts and, while logged in to your office account, set it to auto-answer any incoming calls, thus activating your webcam.
  5. Customer service — You can add a Skype button to your website to let customers and prospects contact you with a click of the mouse. This makes getting in touch with you quick and simple. You can talk them through service issues, address concerns about a purchase, or close the sale.

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/marketing/skype-your-way-to-a-better-bottom-line/#ixzz2ziLB5nXJ

If you have questions about how to protect your small business assets, please  call your “trusted small business advisor” today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

 

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS ASSETS

smallbusinessYou’ve spent years of your life building a successful small business. How do you protect your operation from being destroyed by legal proceedings, natural disaster, or even sudden death?

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently presented attorney Michael J. Duffy with several potential scenarios — and asked him what general steps business owners can take to minimize their risks and ensure the long-term safety of their assets during crisis situations. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Natural or man-made disasters: “The shotgun approach to true catch-all protection is insurance — good insurance, with a realistic coverage limit.” Duffy says. The types of policies you may need will vary based on your industry and other factors. Businesses that are leasing or financing their space, for example, may only need general liability and property insurance. Businesses that own their space outright should consider fire, theft, and disaster coverage to protect the asset. Different types of insurance coverage are sometimes required by law; even when they’re not, Duffy advises entrepreneurs to “get it anyway.”

2. Unexpected death of an owner: You can survive many types of catastrophes. You cannot, by definition, survive death. As a result, Duffy says the sudden or otherwise unexpected death of an owner can be too difficult to overcome. “In my experience, many small businesses simply cannot operate without the owner,” he says. “Small-business owners are the heart of the company, and just like the loss of the heart in a human, loss of the heart of the company can result in death.” With the death of a sole owner, the future of the business can usually be determined by a will or inheritance laws, Duffy notes. It can be more complicated when there are multiple owners or partners. “A good partnership agreement, operating agreement, or bylaws are essential to ensuring continuity in the face of disaster,” he says.

3. Civil lawsuits: Lengthy litigation and other legal issues are usually expensive and potentially disastrous for small businesses. Duffy notes that lawsuits are very situation-specific. “However, in most civil liability cases, the formation of a limited liability business entity, such as an LLC or corporation, can make all the difference between the protection of personal assets and the loss of everything you own,” he says. When a lawsuit is business-related — the result of an equipment failure or a negligent employee, to cite just two examples — the potential losses are limited to the business entity, rather than extended to any personal assets, such as your home. An LLC can also act as a deterrent against lawsuits in the first place. “If your business is of limited assets, the opposing party may not be willing to devote many resources toward the case,” Duffy says. “If additional assets are at risk, there may be additional incentive to go after everything and anything.”

Read more: http://blog.intuit.com/money/how-to-protect-your-small-business-assets/#ixzz2zfF9bc38

 

If you have questions about how to protect your small business assets, please  call your “trusted small business advisor” today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.

IS YOUR BUSINESS PREPARED FOR A DISASTER?

disasterpreparednesssBusinesses can do much to prepare for the impact of the many hazards they face in today’s world including natural hazards like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and widespread serious illnesses. In addition, hazards include accidents, acts of violence by people and acts of terrorism. Examples of technology-related hazards are the failure or malfunction of systems, equipment or software.  If your business hasn’t get started planning for a possible disaster, now is the time.

There are five steps in developing a disaster preparedness program. These five steps are listed below as well as listed as a checklist of steps to follow for your business.

1. Program Management

o   Organize, develop and administer your preparedness program.

o   Identify regulations that establish minimum requirements for your program.

2. Program Planning

o   Gather information about hazards and assess risks.

o   Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA) of how a disaster would affect your business.

o   Examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks.

3. Program Implementation

o   Write a preparedness plan addressing:

o   Resource management.

o   Emergency response.

o   Crisis communications.

o   Business continuity planning.

o   Information technology planning.

o   Employee assistance.

o   Incident management.

o   Training of employees.

4. Program Testing

o   Test and evaluate your plan.

o   Define different types of scenarios that could happen.

o   Learn how to conduct sample exercises for these scenarios.

o   Use exercise results to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.

5. Program Improvement

o   Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed.

o   Discover methods to evaluate the preparedness program.

o   Utilize the review to make necessary changes and plan improvements.

o  Continually monitor your plan to make changes and improvements as needed.

Source: http://www.sba.gov

If you need help in creating a disaster preparedness plan for your business, please call  your trusted small business advisor today.  We are only a phone call away – (727) 391-7373.