Category Archives: Business Basics

The End of Credit Card Signatures

What Does It Mean for Your Small Business?

By Andrey Bobrovskiy, smallbizdaily.com

Have you noticed something different about your in-store transactions recently? If so, that’s likely because the end of the signature requirement announced by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover is finally coming into effect. Although it affects just one step in the payment process, it means a lot more for your small business in the long run.

It Makes Checkouts More Convenient

The payment card industry has been moving toward simplicity and convenience for years. Customers want seamless and secure methods of paying for goods and services, while merchants seek reliable and flexible ways to process these payments across a variety of channels. This paved the way to innovative forms of payments, including those using near-field communication and virtual reality.

However, convenience isn’t always about adding new features. Oftentimes less is more, and this happens to be the case with credit card signatures. By now, they’ve simply outlived their usefulness, a fact supported by Mastercard’s revelation that it already didn’t require signatures for 80 percent of its transactions even before the changes went into effect.

Removing this small extra step from the transaction process will have a large impact on both sides of the checkout counter. As a merchant, you’ll get to keep the line moving, and quicker, while your customers will face less friction at an important point in their in-store experience.

Fewer steps to complete during the checkout may also mean fewer technical difficulties capable of preventing the payment from going through. This could prove to be one of the biggest advantages, especially during the busy holiday season later this year.

Continue reading here

What is the SCORE Business Learning Center?

The SCORE Business Learning Center (SBLC) provides aspiring and existing small business owners the business strategies and tactics needed to make sound decisions and achieve greater levels of success.

The SBLC supplements the business resources available on score.org. It fills the gap between the high-level content on our website and the personalized expertise obtained from a mentor.

At the end of a course, users will feel they have a better understanding of their chosen topic and the resources available for continuous learning. They will also have a mentor they can work with to apply the learning to their business.

You will find it here… https://www.score.org/biz-learning-center

Ready to start an online store?

With all the news about people making a ton of money online, many aspiring entrepreneurs are excited at the prospect of starting an ecommerce store. However, many people don’t think through all the things that they need to consider before they even start the process of building an ecommerce site.

Here are eight things to consider before starting an online store.

1. What Products Are You Going to Sell?

One of the most important decisions is determining which products you will sell on your online store. Your best bet is to start small – with a few select products that are based around a specific niche, i.e. breastfeeding products, scuba diving gear, hiking products, travel gadgets, hemp products, etc. Start with a handful of products in that niche – you can always add more products to your store as you grow. Check out your competition and see who you’re up against.

Be sure to pick a niche that you’re personally interested in. If you’re not interested in what you’re selling, you will quickly lose your passion.

Also, look for unique products that can’t be bought at Target, Walmart or other big brand stores — you will never be able to compete with them on price or promotion.

For instance, when I had an ecommerce site, I searched for mom- or parent-invented products that weren’t available through mass market stores. Plus, these types of product manufacturers are typically more willing to work with you on terms and drop shipping (which we will talk about in a little bit.) You can also look for innovative products to sell on crowdfunding sources like Indiegogo or Kickstarter.

When you determine which niche products you’re going to sell, see if there are industry associations, trade websites or magazines. If so, join, follow and subscribe. Also, if there are product tradeshows around your product niche, attend these trade shows to discover new products, speak with the manufacturer reps directly and learn more about the industry in general. Often at the tradeshows you will be able to negotiate better pricing or drop shipping arrangements – especially if the manufacturer is launching a new product and they’re looking for new distributors.  Continue reading

The #1 reason small businesses fail… and how to avoid it.

Cash flow.

Mention those two little words to almost any small business owner, and you’ll see them flinch.

Very few business terms get as cool a response. And sadly, those two little words (both of them four-letter words, interestingly enough), are the #1 reason small businesses fail. They take out more small businesses than any other factor.

In fact, 82% of small businesses fail due to cash flow problemsContinue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I win in the gig economy?

The “gig economy” — the market for individuals providing services or working on projects on a freelance on-demand or short-term contract basis — has been a growing trend. While there are no official gig economy statistics available to measure its prominence, we can make some assumptions about its increasing popularity based on other available data. 

According to information reported by the United States Census Bureau, the number of non-employer businesses, the group of individuals most likely to work on gig basis,  was 24,331,403 in 2015. That’s 10% more than the 22,110,628 non-employer businesses in 2010.

And opportunity abounds for independent professionals who take on gig assignments. Many businesses outsource work to independent contractors and freelancers when their staffs are overwhelmed and to avoid the costs of benefits and ongoing payroll that come with hiring new employees.   Continue reading

Selling your business? Timing is everything.

by Kelly Deis of SoundPoint Consulting

Owners want to sell their businesses for for a variety of reasons – some want to retire and others are ready to move on to something else. Most owners ask – “is now a good time to sell?” Not surprisingly, the answer is, “it depends”.

Here are three factors to consider when timing the sale of your business. Of course, it is best when all three are optimally aligned, but that is not always possible.

The State of the Owner

The owner is critical to the success and ultimate value of a business. Typically, once the owner is beyond his or her prime, the business value will begin to falter.

It is best to sell when the owner is engaged, still excited about the business and perhaps wiling to stay on after the sale. Likewise, the more youthful and healthy the owner the less they will appear eager to sell.

You want to be the owner that wants to sell, not one that has to sell.  Continue reading

Entrepreneurship is not a solo adventure.

by Mary Marshall, CEO Coach

entrepreneursThe most successful entrepreneurs figure out early on that they are not alone, that they are not infallible and that they need people better than themselves to do certain things.

However, we often have this vision of the entrepreneur as a superman or woman, slaying all the obstacles on the path to greatness all on their own. I’m here to tell you that image is simply not true. If it were, we would only be building companies of one and the term solopreneur would be all the rage.

Entrepreneurs do have good ideas and often strategies for putting their plans into motion. They often have a unique or different vision that others have not imagined yet but what they cannot do is single-handedly make it happen.

I’m reminded of this as I start the new class of Seattle Emerging Leaders at the SBA. These are businesses who have been operating for at least 3 years but at some point, became stuck and could not get past a certain stage of development. As this year’s class introduced themselves to one another, two very similar narratives emerged.

First, they were greatly relieved to be with other entrepreneurs like themselves who felt more or less alone. Realizing that everyone in the class was having the same experience was an eye opener for all of them. Secondly, they realized that part of their struggle was that while working in the business they rarely, if ever, had time to work on it so accountability for that went out the window with the pressing challenges of each day.

Read more on Mary Marshall’s website