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Top 5 Resources For Small Businesses

When running a small business, resources to help you plan, maintain and succeed in your business are pretty plentiful. Yet, like many other things in life, some are better than others. Knowing which ones work, or offer the most useful information, can often be like looking for a needle in a haystack. So here, in no particular order, are my Top 5 resources for small businesses.

Small Business Administration

Although primarily for the North American market, the Small Business Administration, or SBA, continues to offer one of the best support networks for small businesses everywhere. Now over 50 years old, the SBA promotes free competitive enterprise so that even the smallest business can succeed. They offer numerous invaluable services, including sourcing financing for your project, expert advice from successful small business owners themselves, SBA programs on employment and business laws, special interest business groups and much, much more. If you are serious about starting or running a small business in America, this should be one of your first ports of call.

Inc.com

Almost every small business starts off as an entrepreneurial idea. Sure, it may turn into a large multi-national conglomerate (just look at Richard Branson and his Virgin empire), but 8 times out of 10 any small business starts as a one-man band. So the information to be found at Inc.com is well worth your time. Offering you the opportunity to sign up for free and advertise your business via IncBizNet, Inc.com is designed exclusively for small businesses to find like-minded business people and network. The site also allows you to host a blog, post free press releases and much more. For any small business owner it is an excellent starting point.

All Business

Just like the name says, All Business is a fantastic website that has pretty much everything and anything you need to help you start, run and expand your small business. The site is very well laid out and shares expert advice on franchising, labor laws, marketing and advertising and how to complete legal forms, as well as offering tutorial videos from experts in your industry. It even has a Business Purchase Free Quote Center, enabling you get a free, no-obligation quote from vendors that sell the products you need.

Microsoft Small Business

Okay, so it might seem strange to recommend a behemoth like Microsoft – yet as much as he is often a figure of fun for many, Bill Gates is one of the key proponents of helping small businesses get off the ground. Whether it is making anonymous donations to thousands of small businesses with great ideas, or providing excellent small business tools with his various software solutions, his Microsoft Small Business Center is an extremely useful stopover for any small business owner. One of the prime reasons for this is that it is truly international – simply select your country from the menu, and you will be taken to a hub that is full of the business information you need. With articles, tips and software all leading to your success, the Microsoft Small Business Center should be added to your bookmarks today.

Smart Biz

With the Internet playing such a large role in allowing more small businesses the chance to start up in the first place, the Smart Biz website is a well of information for online resources. This includes useful information on how to choose an e-commerce partner (very important if you are selling anything from your website), what software is best to run your back office, what telecom networks are best for your business, what advertising or PR agency [http://www.pressreleasepr.com/] to use and much more. Although you can certainly take some of the advice on display here and transfer it to your offline business, Smart Biz is perfect for the online entrepreneur or small business owner.

While there are literally thousands of small business resources, I have found that these offer the best choice and knowledge, particularly for free resources. Of course, if you find they are not for you, a quick search on Google will soon get you where you need to go. But for anyone looking for online resources to help you get started whether your small business is online or bricks-and-mortar, the companies listed here are some of the best.

Small Business Owners – Try These Design Tips to Create a Professional Looking Company Newsletter

If you’re the owner of a small business, the thought of creating a company newsletter or ezine can be a little scary. If you have little or no graphics design experience you may not know what to do to create a professional looking ezine or newsletter, and not one that screams, “I DID THIS ALL BY MYSELF!”

One way around this it to hire someone to create the newsletter for you. But not every small business owner has the funds for this. Still, a company newsletter is one of the best marketing tools you can create for your business. So try the following tips and develop a professional looking newsletter you’ll be proud of:

1. Pick one font for headlines and subheads, another for text. A good combination is a bold sans serif headline font (like Futura ExtraBold Condensed or Helvetica Heavy or a modern-looking font like Meta, Moderna, or Officina San Serif) paired with a simple serif font (Times, Garamond or Garamond Condensed, Galliard, etc.) for text. Use a smaller italicized version of text font for photo captions.

2. ALL text should be the same size (12 point usually, or sometimes 10 or 11 point, depending on the font); use uniform sizes for heads and subheads–larger headlines for more important articles. Most page layout and word processing programs let you set up style sheets. Set up a style for text, headlines, subheads, captions, etc. This is a very easy way to lay out the newsletter, making sure all fonts and sizes are uniform.

3. Flush left/ragged right text looks best. Justified columns can leave weird looking spaces between words, and centered headlines, text, and ads tend to give the newsletter an amateur appearance.

4. Look at some newsletters. Find a design you really like; set your newsletter up the same way – same number of columns, same size margins, and same size sidebars on each page. Don’t try to make each page have its own design. Pages should have a uniform look.

Follow these tips to create a short, simple newsletter at first. Over time, you can develop additional topics and columns for your newsletter. First, just learn the basics of creating a professional looking publication that can be used to help create a closer, ongoing relationship with your customers and clients.

6 Top Tips for Business Start Ups

KEEP THE CASH FLOWING

Cash flow is mega important and is the single most problem for small and developing businesses. Lack of cash flow is the number one reason for small businesses failures. Always make sure there is enough money in the bank to enable you to carry out the day-to-day basics needed to run your business. If cash flow is restricted then try raising funds from sources such as banks, family and friends, crowd sourcing or even local companies who often invest in small business for the benefits of publicity. If you know that you have a cash flow or liquidity issue you need to address it now as leaving it to chance or opportunity will lead to business failure. Far too many business owners run their business as an extension of their own personal finances. This is a really bad idea, learn to keep the two separate.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUSINESS

First of all, acknowledge that you don’t have the skills to do everything that you need to do to run a successful business. None of us actually knows everything about everything even if we’d like to think we do. With this thought in hand it’s a good idea to decide were your skills are lacking and undertake a small amount of training just so you understand the basics, then hire someone who can. You don’t need to hire employees which will increase your overheads significantly; you can in fact hire really good freelancers from online sources such as Fiverr and Upwork.

ARE YOU YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY?

Most of us like to be in charge of our own futures and definitely our own business. Handing over control, even just a little can leave us feeling empty and scared. It doesn’t have to be like that. You can maintain control whilst allowing those who can to perform the duties that they need to perform. Freelancers are very capable people and know their subjects well, hiring freelancers rather than employees may help you to maintain the control over your business that you desire whilst getting the job done quicker and cheaper.

LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS

Why do we tend to think that we know what our customers want, we don’t because we very rarely listen. All too often we continue to look at it from a sales point of view rather than a consumer point of view. Once you put yourself into the footsteps of the buyer and pay attention to what the customer actually wants and needs you’ll probably find out that what you are delivering needs to be readdressed.

It’s all about the customer, what the customer wants and what the customer gets. In a nutshell all the customer actually wants is a product or service that fits their needs, is value for money and is administered through amazing customer service. It actually amazes me how little most small business owners value their customers. Not only is their feedback critical to you delivering what your customers need but also for their referrals and repeat business.

LISTEN TO YOUR GUT FEELINGS, THEY’RE NEVER WRONG

Our own instincts or gut feelings are seldom wrong; the issue is that most of us ignore them rather than use them as a valuable decision-making tool. We all too often are left saying; ‘if only’ when we make a bad business decision. My advice to you is to listen to your gut feelings, do some research and then act on the facts.

RUN YOUR BUSINESS LIKE A BUSINESS

If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits (gross and net), debt, cash flow, and tax rate you’re off to a bad start. First principle of business is getting the money right. Once the money aspect is operating as it should do you will be free to work on other aspects of your company.

If you don’t learn to work effectively with other businesses.i.e. through effective agreements and contracts, you will come unstuck sooner rather than later. People always have good intentions but life sometimes gets in the way and people tend to not keep their side of the bargain. Protect yourself and your business with effective contracts and agreements. Always protect yourself when trading with both companies and customers alike.

If you have intellectual property make sure that you protect it. If you don’t have the funds to copyright or trademark you IP then you can protect your own IP on a shoestring. You just need your designs, two envelopes, a lawyer/solicitor and a stamp. Secure your signed and dated designs in an envelope marked,’ for court action only’ Date and sign the envelope. Place it into a further envelope and send it by post to your solicitor with a message on the seal stating, ‘Only open for court action’. Create a duplicate, mark it with copy and send it to yourself. Don’t forget to inform your solicitor that the letter will be arriving and needs to remain secure in their safe until needed or they may open it and you’ll have to start the process again.