Category Archives: News

Your first step toward business growth: a SWOT Analysis.

This simple strategic planning technique can help you identify what your business is doing well, what it needs to improve, where it needs to grow, and what could be its undoing.

SWOT strengths weaknesses opportunities threatsChoosing the right direction for the future of your company can be a daunting task. Should you add services? Is your team staying competitive? How can you improve cash flow?

All of these questions and more can be answered by performing a regular SWOT analysis.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Taking a deep look into your business by examining these four elements will provide you with an overview of the health of your company. Your strengths and opportunities offer avenues for your company to flourish, while your weaknesses and threats can inspire improvement and help you recognize emerging competition.

It’s likely that you completed a SWOT analysis in the beginning stages of your business plan to help determine where you stood in the market and identify target customers. Now that your business is established, it’s imperative to conduct regular SWOT analyses to help improve your operations and systems and stave off problems.

How to Get Started with a SWOT Analysis

The most vital step in conducting your SWOT analysis is determining what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are, but sometimes they can be hard to narrow down. Continue reading

How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon

A growing number of self-proclaimed experts promise they can teach anyone how to make a passive income selling cheap Chinese goods in the internet’s largest store. Not everyone’s getting rich quick.

by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Jan 2, 2019

It was only after they’d sunk $40,000 and nine months of precious nights and weekends that Jordan McDowell and William Bjork realized how hard it is to make a passive income selling things on Amazon.

The couple had hoped to strike it rich—or at least quit their day jobs—buying goods from China and reselling them on the e-commerce site. Instead, they lost their savings. For that, they blame Matt Behdjou and Mike Gazzola.

In late 2016, McDowell and Bjork stumbled across a podcast hosted by Behdjou and Gazzola, normal guys who claimed they were making thousands of dollars working less than two hours a day on Amazon. The pair promised that anyone could do the same—all they needed to do was pay $3,999 for three months of coaching that would teach them everything they needed to know about the business.

They’d learn how to source and ship a product from China, how to list it for an attractive markup on Amazon’s third-party marketplace, how to advertise it to consumers, and how to get them to leave good reviews. Amazon would take care of the logistics of storing and shipping, for a fee, through its Fulfillment by Amazon program. Behdjou and Gazzola even provided class participants with a manufacturing contact in China, and organized paid tours of Chinese merchandise markets.

Read more here

Tax Time: A Guide to Completing the Schedule C

 

Before the cold sweat and anxiety of tax season gives you a clammy embrace, make sure you know what you need to complete your Schedule C Tax Return.

tax time clockIf you operate a sole proprietorship or single-member limited liability company (LLC), tax time can be worrisome, especially if you’re doing your own taxes.

A little preparation and you’ll likely find there’s nothing much to worry about.

What is the Schedule C Form?

At its core, the Schedule C is nothing more than a profits and losses worksheet for sole proprietors and single-member LLCs (as long as the LLC hasn’t elected to be taxed as a corporation).

Before jumping into the details of Schedule C, it’s important to note that if you have $5,000 or less in business expenses, you may be able to file a Schedule C-EZ instead. Schedule C-EZ is a similar but much simpler form. It’s worth taking a moment to look at the list of requirements at the top of the form to see if your business qualifies.

The rest of this article, however, focuses on the more complex Schedule C. Continue reading

Want to grow your business? Be different.

by Kelly Deis of SoundPoint Consulting

The odds are that there are a lot of other businesses in your market providing similar products or services. So what is compelling about your firm that sets you apart from your competition and entices potential customers to buy from you?

Many business owners will answer with the “soft” differentiators, such as reputation, good service and high quality. These are all great characteristics (and absolutely necessary!), but do they really set you apart? I’ll bet that if you ask your competition what sets them apart, you will get similar answers.

The fact is that highly differentiated firms are generally more profitable than their counterparts. Their overall market may be smaller than a less differentiated firm, but they have more of it (the proverbial big fish in little pond). And, they most likely charge more and spend less on advertising and marketing. Continue reading

Should you use crowdfunding to help finance your business?

Should You Use Crowdfunding to Help Finance Your Business?

Starting a small business can be costly, but did you know that you can use crowdfunding to help alleviate some of those costs?

Our latest infographic, “Is Crowdfunding Right for Your Small Business?,” shows what types of crowdfunding are available and the different benefits of each.

In 2018, the United States alone raised $1,038,000 in crowdfunding. This amount is expected to show an annual growth rate of 10.4%, resulting in a total amount raised of $1,298,000 by the year 2022. From a global perspective, that amount is even higher – China raised $7,463,000 in 2018!

What Types of Crowdfunding Are There?

There are three types of crowdfunding options available for your business: reward-based, equity, and debt.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

What makes or breaks a successful small business?

business colleagues high fiving

What makes or breaks a successful small business? There are several key commonalities among businesses that succeed, according to several studies polling entrepreneurs.

Here’s a closer look at four things successful business owners do right—and one thing they need to do better.

What successful entrepreneurs do right

  1. They start strong. In a poll of 500 successful entrepreneurs, a whopping 84% of respondents say their companies achieved profitability within their first four years in business. In fact, 68% became profitable within the first year. Only 8% became profitable after their fifth year in business, suggesting that the first years in business are make-or-break ones for most entrepreneurs.
  2. They focus on finding new customers. Small business owners in the survey say finding new customers is their top business challenge—far ahead of cash flow issues or dealing with the competition. Smart entrepreneurs stay focused on continually generating new leads and closing new business.
  3. They put cash back into the business. Forty percent of business owners say whenever they have surplus cash, they put it back into the business rather than paying themselves, a separate study found. What’s more, 47% tap into personal savings to finance their businesses at one point or another.
  4. They work hard. Never let it be said small business owners are slackers. Some 86% work on the weekends; 23% take fewer than two vacation days total all year long; and of those who do take vacations, 75% work during their time “off.” Continue reading