With the rapid move to online ordering and fulfillment, a lot of small businesses faced a budgeting concern they hadn’t dealt with before: shipping.
Customers have come to expect free or low-cost shipping on their orders (and fast turnaround), but the reality is that small businesses often don’t have the volume to make those options viable.
What to do? You still have a number of options to ship the product and still profit.
Here are six tips for small businesses to save money on shipping:
* Use a postage meter. Believe it or not, some businesses will guess at the weight and dimensions of a package, then pay extra postage to ensure they got it right. Don’t be that guy. Know exactly what your packages weigh and what you will pay to ship them.
* Do your homework. Research carriers and rates and become familiar with how shipping gets calculated. For example, heavy items aren’t necessarily the priciest — large ones are. They take up more room in trucks.
* Check for volume discounts. You don’t have to be a large online retailer to qualify for a discount.
* Research packing supplies. You’ll need boxes, labels, tape, packing paper or bubble wrap, etc. Make sure you’ve accounted for these expenses. And check whether you can negotiate a better price for buying in bulk.
* Set a free shipping threshold. Minimum order tiers can help increase your sales by motivating customers to purchase items that will result in free shipping.
* Consider flat rate shipping. Make it easy for consumers by offering to ship products at a standard rate, but again, make sure you’ve done your research. If your items are generally of similar size and weight, this can be easy to calculate.
Pantsuits and purple hair — how has the concept of professionalism changed?
Not so long ago, the dress code for offices and other professional spaces was fairly standardized: suits and ties or dress slacks and button-down shirts for men, skirts or dress pants for women. Jeans (gasp) were a luxury item reserved for Fridays, if at all.
That might seem rather quaint today, especially after a year spent donning pajama bottoms to attend Zoom meetings. But, like any other fashion style — ever see a photo of old baseball games where the men in attendance wore starched suits and ties? — the idea of professionalism has changed as well.
Dress codes vary by company and industry, but suffice to say that tattoos and piercings won’t necessarily derail an applicant’s prospects. Of course, if you’re sporting a skull and crossbones tat on your face, you might want to reconsider that bank teller position.
Whether in response to a younger demographic that pushes boundaries or a reaction to the needs of the disabled community (loose clothing and more practical shoes often being a necessity) and other groups, businesses have broadened their dress code horizons. Companies have also realized that employees are often more productive when they’re comfortable and can express a little personal style, which translates to creativity, innovation, and even loyalty.
Many businesses have a written dress code employees can refer to. And when in doubt, experts suggest looking to management for guidance. Observe what the higher-ups wear and dress accordingly.
More people quitting jobs than ever
Americans are quitting their jobs in droves, voluntarily leaving work at the highest rate on record.
Nearly four million people quit their jobs in April, according to the Labor Department, a figure representing 2.7 percent of those employed. Records go back to 2000, but experts said they expect the numbers are historically significant. The hotel and restaurant quit rate was highest, at 681,000 quits.
Experts attribute the trend to a number of factors: A backlog from 2020, when millions fewer quit their jobs, potentially hanging on during uncertain times; a reluctance among some to return to the office; extended pandemic unemployment benefits combined with stimulus checks; suspended student loans; and a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions; a built-up cushion of savings due to lower spending opportunities last year and a glut of job opportunities as businesses reopen, putting employees in a position to negotiate and/or seek greener pastures.
The quit numbers are expected to taper, though probably not until later in the year. Meanwhile, employers are becoming creative, enticing potential hires not only with higher wages but with unique incentives and benefits. These include educational and training opportunities for employees and family members, hotel stays, swag related to the industry, and more.
Avoid the social media vacation trap
Getting away from business for a little time off can be tricky enough, but here’s one thing working people should avoid: Telling your story on social media.
You DO want to make employees aware that you will be on vacation and specify how they will proceed while you are gone.
You DON’T want to let the world know on social media.
This exponentially increases the chance that a bad actor will break into your empty house while you are gone. This is true even if your social media pages are locked down and secure. Your family and friends might not intend to make your house a target, but the wrong word to the wrong person could make it happen.
This advice includes Check-In apps that post your picture while you’re lounging on a beach or at a fancy restaurant. That is publicity you don’t need.
Don’t upload family photos at your destination. On sites such as Twitter, anyone could follow your life, and you have no way of knowing their intentions or even who they are. Don’t rely on any expectation of privacy on social media.
6 jobs for people who prefer to work alone
If you’re self-motivated and prefer working alone, here are six jobs you may want to consider.
1. Private investigator. Although private investigators regularly have to meet with clients, they spend most of their time alone doing research from their office or following people from a distance.
2. Artist or craftsperson. Creating art usually involves spending a lot of time alone in a studio or sitting at a computer. For example, art restoration, sculpting, illustration, graphic design, and making ceramics are all excellent pursuits for people who value their alone time.
3. Truck driver. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, driving across the country delivering goods as a truck driver may be the job for you. However, you have to be OK with sitting still for hours on end.
4. Gardener or landscaper. If you dream about working outdoors and answering primarily to yourself, becoming a groundskeeper or landscaper could be an ideal fit.
5. Editor or translator. If you’re fluent in one or more languages, you could work as a freelancer and take on translation and editing jobs from the comfort of your own home.
6. Video game tester. If you enjoy playing video games and have a keen eye for detail, this job could be right for you.
Whether you’re an introvert or simply prefer working in a calm, quiet environment where you can focus, there are plenty of career possibilities that may be right for you.
Whispers of SBA COVID-19 fraud abound
In a dark bar, one guy whispers to another that outside a certain apartment building, there is a man with Small Business Administration (SBA) loan papers. All you have to do is make up a business and get $10,000.
Meanwhile, in an office, a man with a drug problem has a failing business and significantly misrepresents his business on SBA loan papers. Two years later, he is arrested and serves 14 months at a federal prison for wire fraud and money laundering.
The latter is the real case of Jeff Grant, a former lawyer, who told Entrepreneur magazine of his spiral into the kind of desperation that led to his arrest.
His first point is obvious: Don’t lie to the SBA and don’t think that the rules are suspended in times of emergency. Not true. Grant says that even state unemployment websites are giving written instructions on how to mislead the government loan apps. Don’t lie about your location. Don’t misuse the money.
In Grant’s case, his application was after the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Thousands of people misrepresented their businesses on emergency loan applications, and they were prosecuted.
But in the case of current SBA loans, lots of restrictions apply, including such a thing as not moving your business. Beware that loans over $25,000 require a pledge of collateral. Don’t spend SBA money on personal debts such as credit cards. The funds are designed for business.
Lumber prices rise as production ramps up
Anyone looking to build or renovate a home has quickly encountered the latest sticker shock item: lumber.
Lumber prices have tripled in the past year, adding nearly $36,000 to the cost of a new home. In late April, the National Association of Home Builders said the price of framing lumber was approximately $1,200 per thousand board feet — compared to $350 per thousand board feet in April 2020.
What happened? A number of things. Consumer demand went up last year as people who were stuck at home undertook DIY projects in droves. Lumber mills shut down early in the pandemic.
As they reopened, they ramped up production and are running at full capacity, according to the Wall Street Journal.
And there were other factors already at play, including increased demand from millennial buyers in their home-buying peak, record low-interest rates, and international trade policies. All of these elements and more combined to create the jump in prices.
Consumers are handling the price increase in a number of ways, including delaying projects or reducing square footage, as well as looking for savings in finish materials or appliances. Now that wood production has increased, experts expect prices to come down, though perhaps not back to pre-pandemic levels.