Best Resources for Small Businesses

Being a successful small business is not easy. The five core challenges most small business face are time management, pricing, cash flow, managing growth and marketing / client acquisition. In order to succeed, you must arm yourself against these challenges. The good news is that there are a number of fabulous resources to help you with these issues.

Actively seek out the right small business information.
Many small business owners are so over-extended that they neglect staying informed about business trends. This is a fatal error. In today’s modern marketplace, you simply cannot succeed if you run your business on intuition alone. You may stay afloat in the short run, but you will eventually lose out to better informed competitors.

There are a number of incredible online resources that are both free and invaluable. Sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com provide tips on just about everything from starting your business to navigating advanced legal issues. They feature in depth information on running your business, leadership / management techniques, sales & marketing tips, small business technology and finances.

Helpful Tip: Set aside at least 1 hour each week to review these sites. If you find that you prefer to read in bed, consider subscribing to a few of these magazines. This information will make you and your business stronger.

Know your industry and target market in real time.
In our modern age, trends shift at break-neck speed. It is important to stay abreast of developments in both your industry and your target market’s microcosm. After all, more often than not, what concerned your target market 3 months ago is now ancient history.

Subscribe to industry related publications and consume the same media as your target market. If you sell jewelry for eco-friendly women in their thirties and forties, spend an hour each week reading news and publications that are relevant to that market. Likewise, be sure to check industry news every week. For example, using the same eco-friendly jewelry analogy, you might read up on green product developments, new fashion trends or even ecological political issues.

Helpful Tip: Set two separate Google Alerts – one on your industry and one for your target market – to send you period updates on relevant news. Google will send these news stories to you automatically, making it easy to skim over the headlines and read through the meaningful stories.

Find the right on-line partnerships.
The proliferation of online office supply stores makes economically and efficiently stocking your office a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Buying office supplies online takes less time and makes price comparison easy. Because of online competition, online suppliers are eager to earn your business. The good ones will provide a wealth of free information on their site and happily take your calls to field questions and offer advice. For example, if you are looking for discounted printer ink cartridges but are a little confused about toner versus regular stores like compandsave not only provide free yet invaluable printer cartridge information resource center but they also eagerly accept calls and offer advice on how to save on office supplies.

Helpful Tip: When you find a supplier with great prices and customer service, hold onto them for the long-haul. A good supplier relationship can save you thousands, streamline your operations and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business.

Selling a Small Business With a Business Broker

If you are a business owner thinking that the time is right to sell, there are a few options that are open to you. Usually though, it boils down to selling the business privately or using the services of a business broker. This article will focus on a few items to bear in mind if you do decide to sell your business with a business broker.

Patience. It takes time to sell a business. Most reputable business brokers are constantly being approached by small business owners who would like to sell a business. Unfortunately, many of these businesses are losing money or are very difficult to sell for a host of other reasons. Business brokers usually turn down more business listings than they take on. Even with this being the case, it usually takes several months for a business brokerage to find a buyer for a company listed for sale. Many times, business owners that have “just listed” their business with a professional business intermediary expect rapid response and a lineup of buyers hoping to view the business. Things don’t usually work this way, unfortunately. If you have decided to list your company with a business brokerage then there are many positive benefits you can expect from the relationship. However, please do be patient.

Multiple Showings. After you enlist the services of a business brokerage to sell your small business, don’t expect the first buyer to be shown your business to be “the one”. Often, it takes showings to 10-12 different ‘qualified’ buyers before a purchaser of found. Sellers tend to get excited at the first showing of the business to a prospect but the reality is that it many take many different people to see the business. There are times, however, where the first person who sees the business ends up buying it so please take these comments with a grain of salt.

Expect False Starts. Selling a business sometimes means being expected for a few false starts. When a business is sold, the first step is (usually) the conditional sale agreement. Typically then, buyers enter into a conditional due diligence period where the operations and financials of the business are scrutinized. In this scenario, the business buyer can walk away from the deal at any time. Sellers are usually quite disappointed if this happens since they put so much time and effort into the deal and now they must start again at square one and start the process over to find a new buyer.

Deal Must Be “Win Win”. In a business sale, the dynamic between the buyers and the sellers must be such that both parties to the transaction feel comfortable with the terms. Unlike some real estate transactions, a business sale must not be confrontational in order to successfully come to a close. The process in a business transaction, especially small business sales, can be quite emotional. The buyer must feel good about the seller and vice versa. The process is much too long and there are too many “outs” along the way for both parties that if a confrontational or aggressive negotiating stance is taken that the deal process could potentially fall apart. The role of the business broker is to ‘reign in’ the emotions of both sides. Be prepared for frank discussions with a business brokerage professional if negotiations (or emotions) get heated.

Selling a small business with a business broker is a good decision that should increase your chances of selling significantly.

Tips on Setting Up Your Small Business Bank Account

One of the first things you will need to set up is a bank account. We recommend a large bank because:

They have locations everywhere

They have longer hours

They will probably buy out your local community bank anyway

If you are an owner/operator of a small business, you will appreciate having a Debit or ATM card for your business. They also have easy to read statements for merchant accounts, little or low fee checking accounts, locations in the grocery store, weekend banking, business credit cards (VISA or MC), small business loans, auto loans and leases, etc. If you run a lot of locations and are expanding your business you might even ask the local manager to fax you weekly confirmation of daily deposits made during the week.

When opening an account always ask about checking account fees, primarily deposits per check charges. Try to have these reduced or eliminated. If you wish to shop banks and fees, don’t forget to shop service. We recommend these ten tips when selecting a bank.

Make an honest list of the services you want and those services you really need and then interview banks to see which services they provide on your ‘shopping list’. Be careful at big banks. Ask for the branch manager and not the new accounts sales girl. Chances are she’s just out of college and doesn’t even understand real world banking relations or hand-shaking deals at the Rotary Club or golf course. She’ll be too ‘By-The-Book’ to answer any real questions.

Start seeking referrals from long standing community and business leaders. Perhaps a local CPA, home based business consultant or small business owner. Make sure you get advice from people you respect.

Geography is important, but it should not in all cases be the deciding factor. You should start with nearby banks.

Visit the bank. Are there long teller lines? Is the staff courteous? Do they smile, etc.?

Sit down with a bank officer and don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions: Do you really want our small company’s business? Are you interested in long-term relationships? Will I be able to work with a certain specific person on a continuing basis? Will you treat me like a number? What is your turn around time on loan applications? How many layers of management are there until I get to the president? What’s his or her name? Have you ever met them? May I?

Make clear exactly what you want and need from a banking relationship. Will you be looking for a loan soon? Like any other relationship, communication is the key to a good banking relationship.

Don’t fall for flashy ads that promise you stuff and they forget your name next week. You might even come back the next day and ask “Do you remember my name? If they don’t, smile and walk out.

Try not to be misled by free toasters or mouse pads if you open an account. These free items won’t help your car wash business thrive, but a good banking relationship can.

Remember, that a bank’s service is gauged by the service it provides, not it’s brochures, gimmicks, signage or billboard ads.

Evaluate the relationship when you have been with a new bank for six months. Honestly evaluate how things are going and share your conclusions with your banker. The best banking relationship is one where both parties are open and forthright and where issues can be discussed that will lead to a long-term mutually beneficial partnership for the expansion and betterment of your car wash franchise.

Check Ordering For Business Account

Why does ordering checks and replacement checks cost so much?

Because banks make a profit on the checks you order. For a little less than one-half the cost you can order your own checks and eliminate the middleman – that’s the bank. Call:

Current Check 1-800-426-0822;

Checks In The Mail 1-800-733-4443;

Deluxe Checks 1-800-4DELUXE

All three firms guarantee that their checks meet industry standards. We’ve ordered from all three. Deluxe is faster if you’re out of checks, but still have money left. They do cost an average of $4.00 more per box.

Interest Bearing Accounts

If you choose an interest bearing checking account, be sure to take a close look at the other associated fees. It may say it’s a free account with no fees and that it’s interest bearing, but if you fall below a pre-determined balance you may pay exorbitant fees or if you have high activity such as lots of checks written or deposited, you may be charged a fee anyway. If it’s a per check fee it will undoubtedly be higher than a normal basic account.

You should not pay fees on a business savings account if fees are charged for your checking account you may seriously want to consider switching banks.

Choosing a good bank for your small business is very important, please take this initial step in your business seriously, you’ll be glad you did.

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