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Entrepreneurs: 7 tips to create the right mindset for success

Growing up with a dryer chair in her mom’s kitchen and a sister desperately in need of a haircut, Shalon White was destined to open a salon someday. At the tender age of 12, Shalon deftly wielded the tools of the trade and gave her sister a snazzy, short cut and color to rave about. And it didn’t take long for her to get more clients. Soon a steady stream of friends and relatives were asking young White to do their hair. She knew even back then that it was her passion. Today, she runs Shalon Salon in her hometown of Alton, Illinois. Here, she shares some tips that helped her take that lifelong passion and, as an adult, launch a profitable and rewarding career: 1. Commit to creating an amazing, lasting impression White worked at Moderne Hair Concepts in Alton for 17 years, and she was its owner for seven of those years. In 2015, she decided to scale back her business to a one-chair salon named Shalon Salon. While her business is small, the experience she provides rivals any big company. “I wanted to be able to really cater to my clients individually,” White explains. With jazz playing in the background and tea, coffee, cocoa or vino in hand, clients can relax as they get a fabulous haircut and style. What’s more, the new salon overlooks the Mississippi River, so clients are treated to a beautiful, calming view. “My clients just love it, and they keep coming back,” she says. “Some of my clients go all the way back to the sixth grade!” 2. Put your customers first Customer service is key. “I don’t want a trip to the salon to be just another chore for people,” White says. “I want them to look forward to it.” That’s why she goes above and beyond to put them at ease. When she made the decision to get into this business, she knew that she would be doing much more than cutting hair. “It’s really about people,” White says. Sometimes she is their therapist. Sometimes she is their cheerleader. But she’s always their…

Can consumers find your business online?

If your business isn’t showing up in online searches, it’s as good as invisible. Consumers are increasingly using the internet to find and choose businesses: More than 51 percent of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone. And that’s exactly why local listings are so important. A local listing is an online profile that contains your business name, address, phone number and other details people need to find and visit your business. How does your business show up? Ensure your business and contact information are correct on over 50 online directories with our free scan tool. SCAN NOW >> But there’s more to getting listed than just entering your information. You have to claim, optimize and manage your listings. To help you make a great first impression and secure a top spot in the search engine results, Deluxe SEO Specialist Abel Johnson shares these expert tips: 1. Be accurate and consistent It might not seem like a big deal if your address is listed as “123 Main Street” on one local listing, and as “123 Main St.” on another. However, when your listings are inconsistent, you risk confusing potential customers — and search engines. Here’s a great example of how getting listed accurately helped one business stand out online and reel in a steady stream of local customers: Bluff City Outdoors was the only business in Alton, Illinois, that carried bait, tackle and specialty catfishing gear that the big-box stores didn’t have. Since Alton is a hotspot for trophy catfishing, Bluff City should’ve been popular with the locals. But when people searched online for bait and tackle shops, it was nowhere to be found. Instead, they’d find variations on a theme, including the store’s previous name — Rodney’s Bait & Tackle. The Deluxe team worked with owner Mark McMurray to update all of his listings with the right name, so people could easily visit the store. The lesson here: Keep your business name, address, phone number and other important information consistent across the board. This matters down to the smallest detail. Since many of online directories pull data…

Startups: The Legal Case for Asking for Permission First

There are a handful of disruptive companies that have asked for forgiveness, rather than permission, when setting up a business. Classic examples are Airbnb, Uber, and Bird. Unsurprisingly, some particular lawyers have worked at all three! But is this really the best business model for success? That depends on your industry, investors, workers, and clients. Here’s the legal case for startups asking for permission first, rather than forgiveness later. Josephine: The Revolutionary Home Cooks Business That Was Truly Before Its Time Josephine, a company that hired home cooks to sell meals to neighborhood customers, ran into legal problems from the start. Its mission was to provide home cooks, mostly stay-at-home immigrant women, with a way to make a living wage feeding neighbors. The business was located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and according to local laws, it was illegal. Investors encouraged the founders to continue pushing their business forward, in a “Don’t Ask for Permission” sort of way, because they believed Josephine had found that sweet spot between product and market. But the founders saw things differently. They wanted to change the world by empowering marginalized communities, building a profitable business, and changing the law by collaborating with policy makers, all at the same time. Perhaps due to Josphine’s workers and customers, they needed to stay “above the law,” or risk endangering their immigration status. The founders never considered taking seed money over passing legislation. As they say, Josephine wanted to be leading-edge, but ended up bleeding-edge. Yes, you can have it all. But not at the same time. Though the legislation they fought so bravely for was recently passed in AB 626, the company died six months ago from lack of funding. Soon, companies will be taking Josephine’s business model and running quite successfully with it. But it will never be Josephine. It’s time will never come. For Small Businesses, Operating in the Gray Area May Be Too Risky As the owner of a business operating in the gray areas of the law, such as Uber and Bird, you will come to a fork in the proverbial road…

9 tips to keep the peace in your family business

Working with family and friends can be a rewarding experience, but it also comes with plenty of challenges. To keep things positive, professional and peaceful, you’ll have to learn how to manage family disagreements over business decisions. Here are nine tips to help you do that with fairness and finesse: 1. Use your work voice It’s OK to use nicknames at the dinner table, but you’ll want to avoid them at the office. Nicknames like dad, sis, junior and sweetheart are fine for family get-togethers, but they’re downright embarrassing in the workplace. Likewise, calling your friend “bro” or “brah” is inappropriate, and it gives people the impression that you play favorites. To keep things professional, think before you speak and use a business-communication style. Remember, your employees are listening. 2. Communicate your specific roles Each family member has an important role in your business, so make sure that role is crystal clear to everyone. Discuss individual responsibilities and expectations, and let relatives know whether they’ll have leverage in the decision-making process. It’s easy for family members to offer friendly advice about what they feel is best for your company. You should also create an organizational chart that spells out the chain of command. 3. Enjoy time away from the business When your professional and personal lives are so closely intertwined, it’s easy to let your individual hobbies and interests fall by the wayside and build resentment for your loved ones. Carving out some time away from your family and the workplace to take a class, go for a hike and have fun can help you blow off steam and boost your entrepreneurial and leadership abilities. 4. Put it in writing Misunderstandings about job descriptions, operating procedures, performance expectations, how and when they’re going to get paid, and the like can upset the balance in your family-business ecosystem. To foster harmony, put everything — from dividend payouts to disciplinary measures — in writing. These documents will allow you to share in the good times and navigate through the bad. While it may seem overly formal to draw up contracts, this exercise is…

9 steps to take before signing a business lease

Preparing to sign a business lease can be exciting! You’ve found what seems to be the perfect location, and you’re ready to get the ball rolling. But before you agree to anything, there are a few steps you should take in order to minimize risks. We spoke to Todd Sivia, a licensed Illinois and Missouri attorney and Illinois Managing Real Estate Broker, to learn how entrepreneurs who are ready to sign a commercial business lease can ensure they’re making a smart decision. Here are Sivia’s nine tips: 1. Know the common elements of a commercial business lease Though some elements may change based on the specifics of your contract, every commercial lease agreement should include the names of the parties entering into the lease, the date the lease will begin, the price, and which party is responsible for the property’s upkeep (insurance, maintenance, etc.). The name is particularly important because whoever signs the lease will be largely responsible for the lease terms. If a party signs personally, they will be responsible for the lease.  2. Review the major types of commercial leases You will have a better idea of what to expect as you prepare to negotiate a lease if you have some familiarity with the three major types of commercial real estate leases: Gross lease/full-service lease: The tenant’s rent covers all of the costs associated with operating the property — this includes property taxes, maintenance/repairs, utilities and so on. Net lease: The tenant pays rent plus some of the costs associated with operations, such as utilities or insurance. In a double net lease, these costs may also include property taxes in addition to utilities and insurance. In a triple net lease, the costs include property taxes, insurance and maintenance/repairs. Percentage lease: The tenant pays rent plus a percentage of the revenue the business brings in. This type of lease is often found in retail scenarios. 3. Think about your business goals before entering into a lease Sivia suggests that small business owners envision the future of their business before signing a commercial lease agreement. “Ask yourself what the business…

4 surprising ways you might be turning off customers

Exemplary customer service means different things to different businesses. Speedy customer service, luxury packaging, unfailing courtesy and graciously accepting client feedback are all ways businesses keep customers coming back. While these customer service tactics are each important in their own right, they’re also well-known and well-documented. What about the less-obvious ways your business may be turning off customers, without you even realizing it? Here are some sneaky, often-overlooked areas where businesses may want to sweep out the cobwebs and spruce things up to make a better impact on customers: 1. Could your bathroom be the setting for a horror movie? Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once wrote about restaurant bathrooms, “I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms… If the restaurant can’t be bothered to […] keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.” Although Bourdain later recanted this opinion, the sentiment is still valid for nearly any business. For restaurants, cafes and other food service providers in particular, a neglected restroom can create an emotional link with the rest of your business, casting unspoken doubts about every other part of the customer experience. At base, dirty bathrooms are gross, and no one wants “gross” affiliated with their brand. Even if your business isn’t in the food service industry, a less-than-pristine restroom can ding you in customers’ minds — and might prevent them from returning. How to fix it: Create a cleaning rotation among your team or hire a local janitorial service to take care of the issue on a regular schedule. (Get more tips about restroom sanitation at this link.)  2. Do your phone habits tell callers to hang up? The phone is a vital tool for businesses. Even in an increasingly online world, customers call to make reservations and book appointments, not to mention request product information or follow up on previously placed orders — and myriad other reasons. Smartphones have made it even easier for customers to contact a business from anywhere, at any time. But are your phone habits undermining your brand experience? Unanswered phones, ignored voicemail messages, rude…

The top 3 challenges facing nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations are struggling, perhaps more than many may realize. At the start of January 2018, Give.org shared news about the results from the Trust Barometer produced by communications firm Edelman. Participants surveyed by the Trust Barometer reported that trust in U.S. institutions had dropped to 43 percent, the largest drop ever recorded in the survey’s 18-year history. These institutions included businesses, the government, the media — and nonprofits. While U.S. participants scored nonprofits at 29 percent as the institution most likely to lead to a better future, confidence in nonprofits has been shaken and organizations face more challenges now than ever before. Let’s take a closer look at some of their biggest obstacles. 1. The fight to recruit — and keep — talented employees This has been a struggle for countless small businesses throughout 2018, and nonprofits are no exception to the rule either. Unlike major corporations which can match top candidates’ salaries and offer plenty of workplace perks, nonprofits work with tighter budgets and have fewer resources. This year, 8.5% of nonprofits have expressed their concerns about staffing challenges finding full-time employees and volunteers. There’s also the problem of keeping employees on after they have been hired, with many firms lacking retention strategies at the bottom and facing burnout for those directors and executives at the top. As a small business owner, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find and hire the right person for the job. However, it is still important to hire for fit even if the process takes some time. Create a long-term strategic plan for recruitment and retention within your nonprofit. Make sure the plan reflects your mission. Eschew work perks you think individuals might want (ping pong tables, gym memberships) in favor of perks that align with your values and motivate employees to grow, such as mentoring or providing professional development resources. 2. Lack of access to capital In her book “Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference,” author Kathleen Kelly Janus writes that 81 percent of nonprofit leaders struggle with a lack of…

7 small business scams to watch out for

Every entrepreneur knows there is a certain amount of risk in running a business. One risk that many don’t realize until it’s too late, however, is falling victim to scammers attempting to swindle you out of money or gain access to sensitive information. A recent study on business fraud found that businesses with fewer than 100 employees lost almost twice as much per scheme than larger companies. And that small businesses were more susceptible to check and payment tampering, skimming and payroll fraud. Small business scams run the gamut from irritating to devastating. On one hand, a scam may cause a minor inconvenience or cost you a few dollars. On the extreme end of the spectrum, falling victim to a scam could cost you thousands of dollars or give criminals access to data such as private customer information, both of which could end up costing you your business. Here are some of the most common scams you should constantly be on the lookout for, and some tips and best practices that will help prevent your business from becoming a victim. Common scams targeting small business owners One of the most challenging things about protecting your business from scams is the sheer number of deceptions out there that you need to be aware of. Here are seven of the most common: Phishing: In a phishing scam, what looks to be a legitimate email actually turns out to be bait that tries to entice you to click on a malicious link. If you do click on the link, it can infect your computer systems with a virus that gives hackers access to personal information such as social security numbers and bank account and credit card information. IRS scams: Every business owner wants to maintain a healthy relationship with the IRS, so it can be intimidating if they suddenly contact you requesting personal information or threatening to sue or arrest you. Rest easy: calls like these are fakes. Know that if correspondence from the IRS seems overly aggressive or requests personal information, you’re likely dealing with a scammer. Additionally, the IRS typically does…

How to Start a Small Business at Home

Back to school season is in full swing for kids everywhere, which may leave some stay-at-home parents feeling empty nest vibes. Why not become a parentpreneur (parent and entrepreneur) and start a small business from the comfort of your own home? Sure, it can be a little stressful in the beginning to grow the business […] The post How to Start a Small Business at Home appeared first on The Work at Home Woman.

Does Your Startup Need a Nondisclosure Agreement?

Every startup should have a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). NDAs protect the privacy rights of trade secrets. In essence, they keep private information private. If the agreement is a one-way NDA, then it protects the rights of the person that drafted the agreement. If it’s a two-way NDA, both signing parties have protected their private discussion. It is one of the best ways to protect ideas so as to be able to have meaningful conversations with buyers, suppliers, potential employees, and investors.  Though most often used in meetings involving technology and other forms of intellectual property, NDAs are also used when disclosing information that could lead to liability, such as insider trading. If you are trying to decide if your startup needs an NDA, ask yourself these questions. Am I Discussing Anything With a Third Party That Is Not Already Protected That I Want to Keep Private? An NDA isn’t necessary if the conversation involves something already protected, such as by trademark or copyright law. But such things as ideas, business models, and deal terms are trade secrets that may not be able to be protected in any way other than an NDA. If you are about to enter into a conversation with anyone that you wouldn’t want broadcasted on the local news or in trade publications, the only way to protect it is through an NDA. Too bad you can’t have your soon-to-be ex-spouse sign one …. or can you? Do Employees Have Access to Confidential Information? Startups are notorious for having employees wear many hats. The VP of Sales may also be heading the Marketing group until someone else can be hired. The Chief Legal Officer may be running Human Resources for the time being. And then there are the numerous cross functional working teams. To make matters easier, everyone has access to all the company’s proprietary information. One rogue employee could spell disaster for the entire company. In an era ripe with leaking insider information, an entry level customer service representative could divulge all of your private information and single-handedly ruin your business. To protect yourself, have all…

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