Tuesday, March 17, 2015

America's #1 Trusted Small Business Development Network Celebrates 35 Years

Press Release from America's SBDC

WASHINGTON DC - America's Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) kicked-off their 35th Anniversary Monday, March 16th with a reception and SBDC client showcase on Capitol Hill. Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Representative Ander Crenshaw of Florida, Chairman of the Financial Services & General Government Subcommittee of the Committee of Appropriations addressed the reception guests. The America's SBDC Network showcased 11 SBDC clients from 8 SBDC state programs (New York, Louisiana, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida, Washington, North Texas and Maryland). The SBDC clients were intelliPaper (WA), Comfort Keepers (FL), Burley Oak Brewery (MD), Maggie Austin Cake (MD), JEM Engineering (MD), YEI Corporation (OH), General Hearing Instruments LLC (LA), Appetizer App LLC (NY), Bear Creek Smokehouse (TX), Vista Group International Inc.(CT) and Amodex Products Ink (CT).

The 63 state and regional Small Business Development Center Networks provide free one-on-one consulting to small businesses through nearly 1,000 locations. In 2014 SBDC clients reported their businesses increased sales by $5.9 billion.  According to data provided by the SBA, every federal dollar spent on the SBDC network helped small businesses access $46.25 in new capital. The SBDC program is a public-private partnership in cooperation with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

"America's small businesses are truly the engine of economic growth, and for 35 years, America's SBDCs have been like spark plugs helping to keep that engine going, "said Charles "Tee" Rowe, president of America's SBDC. "SBDCs are driving small business growth by helping to create a new business every 33 minutes and a new job every seven minutes."

Business has changed dramatically in the last 35 years, from the introduction of new technologies to the expansion of global trade. America's SBDCs has been there throughout helping small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs achieve the American dream of owning their own business. For more information on America's SBDC or to find a SBDC near you, go to www.AmericasSBDC.org.

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About America's SBDC Program: America's SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Network is a partnership uniting private enterprise, government, higher education and local nonprofit economic development organizations. It is the Small Business Administration's largest partnership program, providing management and technical assistance to help Americans start, run and grow their own businesses. Learn more at www.americassbdc.org.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Facebook Update

If you have a Business Page on Facebook, it is important for you to use it and keep learning about site itself. We are not Facebook experts, but we try to keep to date and experiment with it before informing my audience. 

          The Illinois SBDC has worked with many business clients and everyone keeps saying my reach is going down on my Facebook Page-Do you know why? We inform them you are not alone. Most Facebook business pages have seen a decline in their reach during the last year to 18 months(including ours).  Why? Guess what, Facebook is a business, too!  They are doing what most businesses typically do in the early stages of new product (they provided you with the free sample-just like the grocery stores do on weekends when high crowds are in the store). You try the product at little or no cost and then they hope you like it enough to buy more of it. 

         What does this mean? You got your free sample, now you are going to have to pay. Facebook probably reviewed who their customers were and who could they could charge and still benefit from Facebook services. Businesses ranked higher because they can sell promoted ads to small businesses and large corporations.

Why would they charge businesses and not consumers? Well since large corporations jumped on the bandwagon of creating social media pages, the large corporation have money to invest in advertising on Facebook, too. As a result, corporations and small businesses will have to pay so their posts will be viewed more. Another reason, large corporations did not abandoned traditional advertising as quickly as small businesses. Facebook hopes that in the introductory phase of creating and using a Facebook Page was successful for you so your will begin to invest in their products to help your business grow. Additionally, they are a public traded company, so they they have investors who want to see growth, too.

           How do you increase the reach with out spending additional money? You have to encourage your followers to get notifications about your business. First you tell your followers and customers how to get notifications on Facebook. Two ways in which you have to do this is to tell customers in your store and website (because the follower may not see it on facebook if your reach is currently low). You can also tell your Facebook followers how to do it, too. (This may need to be done once a week at different times of the day. )

Steps for Notification: First, they need to go to your Facebook Page. Second, they need go to the "Like" button. Tell them to hoover around the area or they can click on it and check mark the Get notifications.Pretty simple.

  ****Warning about Notifications: These notfications will result in red numbers appearing at the top screen. Some people might find the notifications annoying. Also, if you been posting more than once a day due to low reach, I will highly encourage you that once you start this plan, you should not post more than once a day or else this could get them annoyed (The annoying related to if you sent them emails too many days a day/week.) Also, you should monitor your reach and your like numbers.

      Monitoring again is important. If for any reason likes decline or reach begins to go down again, revisit what you are currently doing on Facebook. It could be: you are posting too many times a day/week for the consumers interest, posting what is not relevant for your audience, people getting to many notifications if (the consumer may sign up on many of their favorite business pages to get notifications-then they may uncheck the get notifications-Consumers will sign up to get every business emails and then come Christmas time, they are unsubscribing.-you probably know the feeling of overloaded inbox).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Bowl Ads

Super bowl ads come in a great variety. You will watch Superbowl ad that allow viewers to experience emotions such as sad, happy, excited, we also may end up experiencing a little laugh or two, or we will view an informational ad.

In the end, each big company pays lots of $$$ for a 30 seconds for their ad, but it ends up being more than 30 seconds because the next day we may rewatch them on the news or online because TV news or the Newspapers will have all or most of the ads viewable on their website. More now than ever before because more and more people are connected online with smartphones and tablets,the technology allows us to watch them over and over and share the funny ads with our followers. As viewers, we may end up watching a Budweiser ad more than 7 times. Companies keep paying the pricey figures for the Superbowl ad, so they must see a return on their investment or do they? So do we watch more commercials around the days before and after the Superbowl than any other time of the year?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Business Owners Can Get Ahead by Learning

Business owners will have a lot to learn especially after they start their own business. The learning takes place right from the start. You are probably an expert in how to do your business, but there will be things that you will not know about running a business. The SBDC advisers can give you guidance of the professionals you will need to meet with and the items that you will need more information.

When meeting with the professionals, like attorneys or accountants, do your homework ahead. While you school may have taught you to do homework after the lesson, the successful students learned to do their homework ahead of the lesson. So if you are meeting with accountant, learn what an accountant is and what he she should be the expert in. That might also researching the background of the accountant you are meeting. In addition, learn some terms that accountants use. Another important tip is that you should write down 3-5 questions to ask. Professionals appreciate that you cam prepared and are referencing back to notes or questions you brought along.

However once you begin operating a business, the learning continues. A successful business will need to maintain an understanding of industry trends as well as technology trends. You do not have to immediately jump on each new trend, but having some knowledge will be important when evaluating the future plans of your business expenditures and investments.

Monday, December 8, 2014

6 Tips for Preventing Employee Theft and Fraud in the Workplace

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: December 23, 2010 Updated: March 27, 2013
Whether it's downloading and sharing company confidential information (a hot topic these days), manipulating expense reports, or stealing merchandise- employee theft and fraud is a serious issue for business owners. In fact, studies show that occupational fraud now results in the loss of five percent of an organizatio-s annual revenue.
Here are some tips for preventing and managing employee theft or occupational fraud.
1. Use Pre-Employment Background Checks Wisely
One of the first steps to preventing fraudulent employee behavior is to make the right hiring decision. Basic pre-employment background checks are a good business practice for any employer, especially for those employees who will be handling cash, high-value merchandise, or have access to sensitive customer or financial data.
This Guide to Pre-Employment Background Checks outlines the types of information that you can consult as part of a pre-employment check, and the laws that govern their use. I's worth noting, that the law varies from state to state on whether a private employer can consider an applican's criminal history in making hiring decisions. Check with your local EEOC office for the laws in your area before going down this path.
2. Check Candidate References
I'm always surprising how very few employers reach out to check candidate references' often assuming that a reference will never be anything but glowing. However, i's good practice to check references' particularly those of former employers or supervisors. If your candidate has a history of fraudulent behavior' then yo'll want to know about it, before you hand them a job offer.
3. Proactively Communicate Conduct Guidelines
Every business needs an employee code of ethics and conduct - while it won't prevent criminal or fraudulent behavior, the standards it outlines will set a clear benchmark for employee behavior and guidelines on how to do business based on a series of principles that promote ethical and lawful conduct.
Once developed, the code of conduct should be documented and agreed to by all new employees (and existing employees if you haven't put a code in place yet). You can find many templates for basic codes of conduct on the Internet, but as a rule of thumb you should include policies that cover the protection of company data, the avoidance of conflict of interests, and of course, obeying the law.
Use employee orientation as an opportunity to go over the code of conduct and explain any areas that are unclear.
Then, revisit the code each year and be sure to add any new considerations that may have materialized - for example, if you do business with certain suppliers, contractors, or government agencies who require you and your employers to agree to new codes of conduct as part of your business relationship.
4. Don't be Afraid to Audit
Auditing always has a big brother feel, and in a small business environment this is especially true. However, conducting regular audits can help you detect theft and fraud. Audits can also be a significant deterrent to fraud or criminal activity because many perpetrators of workplace fraud seize opportunity where weak internal controls exist.
As a rule of thumb, identify high risk areas for your business and audit for violations on a 6-12 month basis - these could include business expense reports, cash and sales reconciliation, vacation and sick day reports, violations of email/social media or Web-use policies, and so on.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) can help companies detect and deal with fraud in the workplace. Find an ACFE-certified fraud examiner near you*.
5. Recognize the Signs
Studies show that perpetrators of workplace crime or fraud do so because they are either under pressure, feel under-appreciated, or perceive that management behavior is unethical or unfair, and rationalize their behavior based on the fact that they feel they are owed something or deserve it.
With this in mind, some of the potential red flags to look out for include:
  • Not taking vacations - many violations are discovered while the perpetrator is on vacation
  • Being overly-protective or exclusive about their workspace
  • Prefers to be unsupervised by working after hours or taking work home
  • Financial records sometimes disappearing
  • Unexplained debt
  • Unexpected change in behavior
6. Set the Right Management Tone
One of the best techniques for preventing and combating employee theft or fraud is to create and communicate a business climate that shows that you take it seriously . Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your finger on the pulse:
  • Reconcile statements on regular basis for fraudulent activity
  • Hold regular one-on-one review meetings with employees
  • Offer to assist employees who are experiencing stress or difficult times
  • Encourage open-door policies giving employees the opportunity to speak freely and share their concerns about potential violations
  • Create strong internal controls
  • Require employees to take vacations
  • Treat unusual transactions with suspicion
  • Trust your instincts
How have you encountered workplace theft or fraud? How did you deal with it or what preventative measures do you use? Leave a comment below.

About the Author:

Caron Beesley
Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley