A 14-Step Checklist to Make Your Business Legit

By Gerri Detweiler
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Grand OpeningPerhaps you’ve got a hot idea for a new business and decided it’s time to turn a dream into reality. Or you’ve given up on finding your dream job and decided to create your own. No matter what your motivation for launching your own business, the journey ahead is no doubt both exciting and scary. Where do you start?

The first thing you’ll want to do is lay a solid foundation for your venture. Here’s a step-by-step list to get you started.

1. Choose a business name. Think this one through carefully. Not only do you want to make sure it will be unique and memorable, you’ll also want to make sure it is legally available. Just because there are other businesses with similar names doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but be careful. If your business name is similar to another business — particularly one in your geographic area — your business credit profiles could get mixed up with one another. While you are at it, check domain names, social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Do a Google search. Before you make your final decision, consider a trademark search to avoid any legal challenges down the line. If your business name is too similar to another, you may not be able to register that name when you create a legal entity. (See step 4.)

2. Choose your business address. It’s OK to register your business at your home address, though some owners choose to use a service such as a UPS store to give their business a location separate from their home address. Keep in mind there will be situations — such as filing a tax return — where you will have to provide a physical address for the business.

3. Get a business phone number. You may not have to get an expensive business landline from your local telecom, but you do need a number to give out to clients and customers, and it should sound professional. You may be able to use a service like Google Voice or get a virtual business telephone service or answering service.  (more…)

Small Business Payments Toolkit – A Free, Informative Resource for Small Businesses and their Advisors

By Mary Hughes
Senior Payments Consultant, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Small Business Payments ToolkitThe Business Payments Coalition recently released the third version of its Small Business Payments Toolkit. The Toolkit provides education about payments and encourages the adoption of electronic business-to-business (B2B) payments by small businesses.

Visit this link to download this free resource:
https://fedpaymentsimprovement.org/wp-content/uploads/small-business-toolkit.pdf

Breaking Up (with Checks) is Hard to Do!

Checks are the main way many small businesses make B2B payments. Checks are popular because you don’t need to know the account information of the person or business you want to pay. However, the Toolkit points out that small businesses should try to reduce their reliance on checks because they are expensive, labor-intensive and expose a small business to fraud.

What Should Small Businesses Use Instead of Checks?

Using plain language, the Toolkit educates small businesses on the benefits of using electronic payment types such as Automated Clearing House (ACH) credits and debits, wire transfers, and credit and debit cards instead of checks. It explains the pros and cons of each of major payment type.

What’s New in the Toolkit?

Originally published in April 2015 by the Business Payments Coalition (formerly the Remittance Coalition), the Toolkit is now on its third version. Original content has been refreshed and new content includes:

Same Day ACH: An Important New Payments Tool for Small Businesses
Hot Topics in Payments Fraud (round up of latest fraud scams and threats)
Self-Assessment Quiz so small businesses can test how ready they are for electronic payments
• Updated content on Online and Mobile Payments Alternatives
• New links in the extensive Resources section  (more…)

The Free Resource Your Business Is Overlooking

By Gerri Detweiler
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Free ResourceAmy Cantin and Larinda Rainwater had been travel agents for over 20 years. They loved helping their clients and were successful, but were finding themselves increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs at the travel agency where they were both employed. They knew the logical next step would be to open their own travel agency, but that prospect was intimidating.

“We knew how to sell travel but we didn’t know how to run a business,” says Cantin, echoing a common dilemma many would-be entrepreneurs face. “It was scary,” Rainwater adds.

Fortunately, a friend referred them to the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, where, for nearly a year, they worked with business consultant Robert Bahn to develop a plan for their business and prepare to go out on their own. They also hired an attorney who, among other things, made sure they didn’t take any client information with them, which could open them to legal action by their former employer.

Their planning paid off: starting with their grand opening (which Bahn attended), Jonesboro Travel Cruise and Tour was a success. “We turned our open sign on and from there it exploded,” says Cantin. “We have been so grateful,” says Rainwater, referring to both the reception from their community and the help they received from Bahn. Describing the services they received from their SBTDC, Rainwater says, “We can’t believe it’s free!”  (more…)

The Secret Behind One Small Business’s Success—Hint: It’s Free!

By Gerri Detweiler
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MentoringShane and Melissa Nichols’ five-year-old business, Arkansas-based Medex Waste, is on track to bring in $1 million in revenue, thanks in large part to the free help they received from the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. “I don’t think we could have made it without them,” says Shane. “Without them there to answer questions and to lead us in the right direction, it would have taken us a lot longer and cost us a lot more money.”

The idea for the Nichols’ business, a firm that transports medical waste for disposal, started percolating after Melissa lost her sales job with a large national medical waste disposal firm when her office closed. As a top salesperson, Melissa often found herself frustrated when some of her clients were unhappy with the services they received from the firm. Initially, she took the layoff as an opportunity to go back to school, but then decided to take a job with another firm in the same industry. When the new company tried to shortchange her on her commission, she decided with her husband to start their own business.

At first the Nichols tried to land a small business grant, but were unsuccessful. Instead, they received something that perhaps proved to be more valuable in the long run: a referral to their local SBTDC. Advisors there helped them create a business plan, navigate small business financing options, and even provided sales leads. The SBTDC gave the Nichols answers to “all types of business questions,” says Shane, and “it was all free!”  (more…)

Understanding the Crisis of Disengagement

By Andrew J. Sherman
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

The Crisis of DisengagementMy latest book, The Crisis of Disengagement, discusses the multifaceted workplace dilemma — disengagement. It examines how apathy and complacency effects leadership and governance, company culture, fellow peers and team members, and lastly, the individual itself.  Layer by layer, I uncover the impact disengagement has on innovation, creativity, productivity, and profitability within an organization and in our communities.

At the America’s SBDC Annual Meeting in Orlando in the Fall of 2016, I gave a “Small Talk” sponsored by American Express where I discussed the impact of our nation’s current levels of disengagement on small business, innovation and entrepreneurship.  Small companies are struggling to compete for recruitment and retention of a qualified and motivated workforce and cannot withstand the financial and productivity consequence of a small group of workers who are not engaged. They also face the challenges of the “gig economy” and “the free agent nation” where nearly a third of all U.S. workers are independent or self-employed, with no loyalty on engagement towards a particular company, creating a modified set of expectations, relationships, and workplace norms.

Statistical data on levels of disengagement are still being gathered based on various demographics such as age, industry type, macro/micro level economic conditions and situational analysis. There are several evolving notions on the crisis of disengagement topic and direct and indirect costs of disengagement are still being understood and analyzed.  However, the effects of disengagement are the same throughout each organization or business. It is a disease affecting the central nervous system of our economy — and it is destroying creativity, innovation productivity and profitability.  (more…)