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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Pros & Cons Of Outsourcing Your Small Business Payroll Processing

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Paying employees involves far more than just cutting a check on payday. Managing your small business’s payroll encompasses a variety of responsibilities that need to be met accurately and on time.

As an employer, you must: 
• Withhold employee taxes.
• Pay withholdings to government agencies.
• File quarterly reports.
• Issue W-2 forms at the end of the tax year.
• Issue summary filings to the state.
• Manage your employees’ health plan and retirement contributions.
• Handle state disability, unemployment and family leave assessments.
• Inform the government when you hire new employees and when employees leave your company.

If that sounds overwhelming, you might be wondering if you’d be better off delegating the work to a payroll company. Outsourcing your small business payroll has its advantages and some disadvantages.

Pros Of Outsourcing Payroll:
• It could save you time. You won’t be bogged down with calculating payroll deductions, remitting checks, etc.
• It could give you greater peace of mind. With a service provider specializing in handling your payroll, you might sleep better at night knowing payroll taxes will be calculated accurately and paid on time. A reputable payroll company will have a staff knowledgeable and up-to-date on all payroll tax deduction rules.
• It could save you money and make you more productive. Although you’re paying someone else to manage your payroll, you free up your in-house resources (including yourself) to take care of other important aspects of your business. Rather than spend time trying to figure out payroll and fix errors, you can instead focus on generating sales and innovating new products and services.

Cons Of Outsourcing Payroll:
• You may pay for more than what you really need. Some payroll services bundle offerings together in all-inclusive packages. Be wary of these as they might include services you don’t need and will never use.
• Errors might happen if your business has unique circumstances. If your business deals with situations the payroll service provider isn’t familiar handling (e.g., union employees, tips made by restaurant or salon employees, etc.), the company may make unintentional errors. You need to be sure you choose a service with staff that understands your industry/type of business and your company’s specific needs.
• You relinquish some control but are still ultimately responsible. This can be a bit unnerving; even if a mistake wasn’t your fault, you may be subject to fines for inaccuracies or late payroll tax payments.

Tips For Choosing A Reputable Payroll Service Provider
• Ask around. Talk with other small business owners to find out whom they use and what their experience with those providers has been like. SCORE mentors can also help you evaluate and connect with reputable payroll service providers.
• Talk with your accountant. This can give you insight into the right questions to ask and what expertise to look for.
• Ask for detailed pricing. When getting a quote, ask for an itemized breakdown of fees. That way, you’ll see if their services cover what you need and you can make sure you won’t be paying for anything you won’t need.

Questions To Ask Prospective Providers
• When and how often will I receive reports from you?
• Will your system integrate with my accounting software?
• What is the turnaround time to process payroll after you have my information?
• If a mistake is made, how quickly will you correct it?
• Do you charge additional fees for adding employees or changing employee payroll information?
• If we have to file taxes in multiple states, do you charge an additional fee?
• Will you assign my company a dedicated representative?
• What are your customer service and technical support hours?
• Is your system capable of handling employees’ health and retirement plan contributions?

A Choice Worth Careful Thought
When deciding whether to keep payroll responsibilities in-house or outsource them, you will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Consider the level of comfort and expertise your staff has (or lacks) in dealing with payroll tasks and weigh that against the ongoing costs associated with contracting a payroll service provider. Don’t make this important decision in haste, as it will affect your bottom line and how you spend your time.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Considerations When Marketing A Niche Product

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While no product or service can be a good fit for everyone, niche products have an even narrower market than most.

If your business is focused on meeting a specialized need in a specialized market (for example, wholesale vegan spa products), the strategies and tactics others use to market their products and services may or may not be as effective for you. Marketing a niche product starts with creating a marketing plan that’s in step with your business plan.

According to SCORE mentor Tom Burgum, “Begin with rigorous market research. Resources like Reference USA and RMA financial profiles can provide valuable information.”

Burgum suggests finding answers to these questions:
• Is the product new to the world, or are others like it already available for sale?
• How can you differentiate your product from those that are similar?
• How large is the niche, is it growing, and at what pace?
• What’s the buying process?

When you’re targeting a niche market, having a detailed profile of the customers to whom you’re selling is also essential.

For starters, ask yourself these questions about the customers in your niche market:
• What are their needs?
• What are their expectations in terms of quality, price, speed of delivery, etc.?
• Where can you find them (virtually and physically)?
• How do they shop for products and services like yours?

Answering these and other questions will help you determine the ways to most effectively attract the attention of potential customers.

Some possibilities might include:
• Networking at events and industry conferences that draw your target market
• Targeted social media advertising (online social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc. offer pay-per click and pay-per-impression opportunities to present ads to customers who are in specific geographic areas, who fit certain demographic criteria, who have specific interests, etc.)
• Editorials in industry and trade magazines
• Radio spots during a program that draws listeners from your target market
• Guest posts on well-respected blogs that customers in your target market follow

Niche product marketing can be very cost-effective because you don’t waste time and money on people who have no interest in or need for your product in the process of reaching those that do.

“Test market your product…your unique selling proposition…your customer value to confirm your assumptions and validate your marketing assessment,” advises Burgum. “Although you can never be 100 percent certain about your conclusions, don’t be a victim of paralysis by analysis. Learn what you need to in order to minimize risks…and then go!”

If you need guidance in marketing a niche product, consider reaching out to your local SCORE chapter to speak with a mentor who can provide ideas and feedback.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

How Creating Buyer Personas Can Help Small Businesses In Their Marketing Efforts

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Compiling demographic information about your buyers will only take you so far in understanding how to reach and what to say to your target customers. By creating a “buyer persona” (a profile of a customer to represent a particular group of buyers) for each group of customers to whom you wish to sell your products and services, you’ll gain greater insight. Buyer personas help you drill down to the specifics of what motivates individual customers to buy and identify what communications channels will give you an opportunity to connect with more of your prospects and customers.

Some of the most powerful benefits of creating buyer personas include:
• Improving your marketing focus because personas bring to light the customers worth your time and marketing dollars.
• Giving you insight to help you more effectively craft your marketing messaging.
• Helping you determine the best marketing channels and advertising venues to reach your ideal customers.
• Enabling you to give your buyers a more personalized experience through the sales process.
• Saving money and improving sales because you’re not developing products and services to try to appeal to too broad an audience. You have the insight you need to focus your development efforts on satisfying the needs of your ideal customers.

How do you create buyer personas for your small business? Here are a few steps to guide you on your way:

Consider what you know right now about your current customer base
a. What characteristics do they have in common?
b. What are their demographics (age, gender, income, marital status, educational level, etc.)?
c. What do they do for a living?

Talk with your present—and past—customers
a. What challenges do they face?
b. What goals and aspirations do they have?
c. How did they find you?
d. What made them want to use your products or services?
e. What do they like about you?
f. Why have they stayed with you rather than moving to the competition?
g. Why did they leave you and go to the competition?

Write your personas
Present them as fictitious individuals who represent the typical traits and motivations belonging to your specific ideal customer groups. Incorporate the information you know about them and create short stories about who they are, the challenges they face, their buying habits and what motivates their buying decisions. You can find many examples and templates online for structuring your buyer personas.

Various factors (including your industry, type of business and others) will affect the number of buyer personas you should have. For additional guidance and input as you begin developing your customer profiles, consider talking with a SCORE mentor. SCORE volunteers have expertise in all aspects of starting and managing a small business, and they are here to offer free insight to help you through all stages of your company’s growth.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

Pros and Cons of shorter work weeks

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Companies have been experimenting with shorter work days for at least a decade and, despite announcements that the 40-hour week is dead, there have been mixed results from the experiments.

The idea has been to cut hours while keeping pay the same.

On the plus side, employees love it.

Quoted in the New York Times, Swedish employees at hospitals and Toyota factories say they do just as much work in six hours as they did in eight and they are happier.

One audit of the experiment in a nursing home concluded that absenteeism was down while productivity and worker health improved.

On the downside, Swedish the experiment in work hours has costs Swedish taxpayers for what one politician called “paying people not to work.”

In France, the socialist government ordered a 35-hour work week in 2000. Companies bitterly complained that it reduced competitiveness and cost billions in additional hiring.
In Korea, a plan to reduce hours from 44 to 40 resulted in worker stress as employees struggled to get the same amount of work done in fewer hours, according to the Korean Journal of Happiness Studies.

One American company in 2004 experimented with a six-hour week and found employees worked harder but they didn’t interact and worker camaraderies ground to a halt as people struggled to get their work done in fewer hours, according to BBC Capital.

 

How many hours do people actually work?

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Since 1938, the official work week has been 40 hours. That was a triumph for workers laboring 12 to 16 hours a day.

The labor motto was: 8 hours work; 8 hours rest; 8 hours for what we will.

How that has worked in practice for both blue collar and white collar employees is different than the motto indicates.

While, work week estimates vary widely depending on the source, most put average work times at greater than 40 hours.

According to the Labor Department, average hours for full-time work broke down this way:
– Management, professionals: 43.3.
– Service: 41.3
– Sales and office: 41.9

Gallup surveys, in which people self-report working hours, show office workers logging an average of 49 hours.

In production settings, according to labor statistics, work hours from 1940 to 2010 have been relatively stable at just over 40 hours, except for war years when hours topped 45 per week, and depression when hours dipped under 37.

In 2015, Fortune, using numbers from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, calculated he average work week at just 34.4 hours. This put the United States at 16th for the highest number of hours worked. Canada at 32.77 hours ranked 22nd; the United Kingdom was 24th at 32.25; and Australia was 25th at 32 hours.

In this analysis, the top six hardest working countries were Mexico at 42.85 hours; Costa Rica at 42.62; Korea, 40.85; Greece, 49.27; Chile, 38.27; and Russia, 38.17

Press Release Basics For Small Business Owners

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Press releases remain among the most effective ways to generate awareness of your small business and its products and services. Media outlets may reproduce a press release as is (or with some editing), or follow up about creating a longer story. A press release that gets picked up by reporters, bloggers, and others who share information with potential customers can result in media attention that facilitates interest in your company, builds credibility, and ultimately leads to more revenue.

Keep in mind, however, that the people at media outlets who field press releases are bombarded with them. That means yours needs to have purpose and must stand out from the crowd; otherwise, it may never be read let alone published.

Here are some tips to help ensure your press releases make an impression and make it past media gatekeepers:

Make sure it’s sharing something people will care about. While a press release can be about anything relevant to the people you want to reach, make sure you’re sharing something that’s interesting. Never create a press release that doesn’t offer something of value to your readers.

Examples of press release topics that might resonate with people include: 
• Launch of a new product that will make customers’ lives easier
• Improvement to an existing product that enhances its quality or capabilities
• An open house event
• Introduction of a new staff member who brings additional expertise to your company
• Involvement in an industry association or sponsorship of a well-known program

Keep it to the point
Press releases are typically short, providing just enough information to spark a reporter’s interest in learning more. If your press release extends past two pages, it will likely get passed over. Stick to the basic “who, what, when, where, how, and why” information, and include your contact information so reporters can easily reach you if they have questions.

Put it in the right hands
Research what media outlets reach your target audience. Depending on your type of business, that may be local newspapers, local magazines, and local television and radio stations, or you might benefit from a much broader reach. With local media, find out how they prefer to receive press releases. For media reach beyond your local area, you might consider PRlog.com or pay services such as PRweb.com, PRnewswire.com, or Marketwired.com. (Royal Examiner welcomes your press release – send to news@royalexaminer.com)

Also take advantage of the power of social media by posting your press release on your website and sharing the link on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the other platforms you have a presence on.

If you need guidance in what to include in your press releases and which media outlets will serve you best, or if have any other questions about ways to generate buzz about your small business, talk with a SCORE mentor at your local chapter.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org. 

How To Boost Business Using Live Video 

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Live video streaming has become one of the most powerful ways to forge stronger connections with customers. Apps like Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, YouTube Live Streaming, and Periscope can help small business owners boost sales and strengthen their brands.

Going “live” enables people to see what’s happening with your business in real-time and offers a more personal view of what your company does and who the faces are behind your logo.

If you’re thinking about giving live video streaming a try, here are some ideas to help you go live with content that will engage viewers and shine the spotlight on your small business’s strengths.

Introduce a new product or service
Live video provides a memorable way to communicate features and benefits and get people excited about your new offerings.

Feature product demonstrations and how-tos
Live video offers an effective way to demonstrate how products work and teach customers how to use your products. “Seeing is believing.” If you show people your products or services improving productivity or making life easier for a customer, it adds credibility and builds trust.

Introduce a new team member
Sharing the credentials, capabilities, and personalities of new employees can facilitate a stronger personal connection with customers and enhance customers’ confidence in what your business can accomplish.

Interview a raving fan customer and share their success story
This type of live word-of-mouth testimonial can serve as a powerful endorsement of your products and services.

Show a fun “day in the life” glimpse of your office culture
Streaming video of your team’s camaraderie during work can help humanize your brand and give your customers a sense of what it’s like behind the scenes at your company.

Feature your company participating in a community cause
Capturing real-time moments of your team giving back to the community can build a stronger emotional connection with customers. People feel good about supporting businesses that commit themselves to causes that help those in need.

Show your team members celebrating a milestone
Whether it’s making a toast to your business’s five-year anniversary or announcing a new project partnership, celebrating your milestones through live video can show people you’re a thriving and growing company.

Introduce a new marketing campaign or a branding development
Streaming video to raise buzz about new promotional offers or rebranding efforts (like a new logo) can generate excitement and enthusiasm—and potentially sales!

Show off a team member’s skills on the job
By featuring your employees’ expertise and capabilities, you can reinforce why customers should choose your products and services over those from your competitors.

Gearing Up To Go Live
Before you use live video for the first time, consider watching how other brands that sell products and services similar to yours are using live video streaming tools. That will help you generate more ideas and give you a sense of what resonates with viewers. Also, evaluate which live streaming platforms will benefit you the most. Consider your followers will be the most likely people to tune into your broadcasts. With that in mind, will one platform over the others reach more people in your target audience?

As you explore using live video streaming to market your business, reach out to a SCORE mentor for insight and suggestions. With expertise in marketing and all other aspects of starting and running a small business, our mentors are here to provide guidance and align you with the resources you need to succeed.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

The success factor

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Here is an old quote from Woody Allen that has entered the realm of Respected Axioms.

It’s a reminder that progress requires action.

Allen said that 80 percent of success is showing up.

In a recent interview with The Motley Fool investment advisors, Allen recalled that quote:

“I made the statement years ago which is often quoted that 80 percent of life is showing up. People used to always say to me that they wanted to write a play, they wanted to write a movie, they wanted to write a novel, and the couple of people that did it were 80 percent of the way to having something happen.

“All the other people struck out without ever getting to the plate. They couldn’t do it, that’s why they don’t accomplish a thing, they don’t do the thing. Once you do it, if you actually write your film script, or write your novel, you are more than half way towards something good happening. So that is the biggest life lesson that has worked. All others have failed me.”

If you want to do something, you must start.

You can further your career with training classes, college courses, or you can open up a text editor and start your great American novel.

Your goals don’t have to be lofty either. Want to be a citizen and homeowner? Get up, Dress up, and Show up every day and do your best.

The Reality of Running A Small Business: Prepare Yourself (And Your Loved Ones)

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Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart. Being your own boss offers rewards—and plenty of challenges as well. Transitioning from working for someone else to running your own company brings changes that not only you need to navigate, but that your family and friends also need to adjust to.

“Realistic expectations are required by both the entrepreneur and close family. It must be a ‘team sport’,” explains SCORE mentor Steve Spencer.

As you prepare to start your business, keep these things in mind so you—and your loved ones—can more easily transition into the brave new world of entrepreneurship.

Income might be unpredictable at first.
Without a steady paycheck coming from an employer, you might find it challenging to keep up with expenses both professionally and personally. When you’re starting out, revenue from your business will take time to ramp up. It takes time to build a network of connections and clients.

You may need to forego some luxuries.
Prepare to make some personal sacrifices when self-employed. A daily caramel latte and Friday dinners out at your favorite five-star restaurant probably won’t be in the budget for a while.

Working from home requires discipline.
If you decide to run your business from an office in your home, you’ll face a whole new set of distractions that can threaten your productivity. Tuning out the personal to-do list and spontaneous requests from friends to meet up for coffee during the workday demand concentration—and the strength to say “no.”

Expect to work really hard.
Starting a small business requires a significant amount of time and effort. Many new entrepreneurs find themselves working harder and for longer hours than when they worked for an employer. Finding ways to maintain a comfortable work/life balance might be challenging in the beginning, but it’s necessary for the well-being of you, your family, and your business.

According to Spencer, “Realize that your new business will need a variety of help and advice. You will need to form relationships with professionals you may not have needed to collaborate with before. To better your chances of success, consider creating a business development board comprised of legal, accounting, banking, and industry experts who will agree to provide pro bono guidance as you begin. Having a team to guide you can help you prepare yourself—and your family—for what to expect from running your own business.”

SCORE mentors, with their breadth of experience, are often willing to serve on business development boards. Also consider talking with other entrepreneurs in your community who have walked the same path and can offer valuable insight and experience about the realities of entrepreneurship.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” has helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in over 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you. Visit SCORE at www.score.org.

What exactly is being professional?

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So many people talk about professionalism as if it is a suit you put on.

In fact, professionalism is just shorthand for being a respectful, skilled, and reliable.

*Respectful
It’s not just ‘yes, ma’am’ or ‘no, sir’, but that isn’t a bad thing. Respect is about:

Listening: Treating co-workers and customers as important humans with valuable things to say. Learn to listen without interrupting.

Dressing properly: The dress code is either spoken or unspoken. Look around to figure it out. Lifehack writer and business analyst, Ben Brumm, suggests dressing slightly above the dress code. If a collared shirt is required, try wearing a tie, too.

Conversing smartly: Stay away from politics and religion, according to Inc. Magazine. You may want to avoid discussing current events, especially if it is against prevailing wisdom.
Answering the phone properly: Greet and state your name. Hello, this is Sandy or Good Morning, Sandy speaking.

Separating work from home: Hello Kitty is swell, but it should not dominate your office space. Decorate modestly and discretely. Don’t bring your hobbies into the office. Be in the office to work, not solve family problems on the telephone.

*Reliable
Return emails and texts promptly.
Be punctual: Be on time, all the time. No exceptions.
Meet all deadlines: Treat them as sacred.
Show up. Always.
Lend a hand.
Volunteer for special jobs, if you have the time to follow through.

*Skilled
Be great at your job.
Be great at recognizing other people’s greatness.
Speak formally. No slang and certainly no objectionable words.