Three Opportunities for Veterans Eager To Start, Run or Grow a Small Business

February 16, 2012

For those actively serving, returning home from duty or looking to leverage skills gained as veterans from different service eras, we’d like to thank you for your service—and help you on your tour of duty in the private sector.

You’re likely already familiar with the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a military-private sector initiative to place veterans and military personnel into full-time employment. In addition, the VOW to Hire Heroes Act offers tax credits for employers that hire unemployed and service-disabled veterans. So finding a job in corporate America is, hopefully, becoming less difficult for former military personnel.

But what if you have that insatiable itch to strike out on your own? If you’re a burgeoning entrepreneur, check out these three opportunities unique to veterans, all designed to help you start your new business or grow its operations.  (more…)

Why Social Media Engagement and Customer Intelligence Go Hand In Hand

February 13, 2012

By Ramon Ray –

I know you get social media (or at least you’re trying). You try to post on a regular basis to Twitter. You try your best to create a great Facebook page. On the other hand, you know that you’ve got to be very focused on your customers. What you might not know is why it’s important to blend your customer service tools with social media intelligence.

Maybe you sell carpet. Before your sales teams calls upon your dental client, Dr. Marvin Drillman, wouldn’t it be great to know that he just Tweeted something about his wife’s upcoming birth day and you could suggest he re-carpet their den for her birthday. This is “social crm”.

As your business grows it’s critical that you not only invest the time and resources to build a database of your customers and know about their past sales trends and purchase preference, but that you and your team also know what your customers are saying in social media.  (more…)

5 Simple Ways to Get More Engagement on Your Facebook Page

February 9, 2012

By Gina Watkins –

It’s a question almost as old as Facebook itself: Once people have “Liked” your Page, how do you keep them engaged? One of the best ways is to use the right kind of content — the kind that will elicit a response and get your fans to take action.

Ready to engage some more on Facebook? Here are five simple ways:

1. Use photos. According to a recent report from digital marketing agency Web Liquid, Facebook posts with photos are the most likely to engage users. These posts showed a .37% engagement rate, compared to a .27% rate for text-only posts and a .15% rate for just links. If you think about it, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Photos, obviously, grab attention visually and people must click them to get a closer look. So use an intriguing photo to get people’s attention. Be sure to say something about the photo, too. We’ve seen people using this space to write more without having to link off Facebook.  (more…)

Business plans… for better for worse, for richer for poorer

February 6, 2012

By Peter Justen –

One of the debates I hear most often revolves around the need for a Business Plan. Love them or hate them…everyone has an opinion. I’ve heard VC’s say they never do anything without one, and I’ve heard them say they are a waste of time.

My opinion? Yes. No. Absolutely. No way. Without a doubt. Maybe.

I think it all depends on what you are going to use it for. I’ve seen hundreds (and written dozens) of business plans over the years and I can’t think of one where everything went according to the plan that was so carefully written. So why bother with them? Simple. I think the highest value to be gained from putting thoughts to paper lies in helping the writer think through their models.

Top 5 Reasons to Write Them

1. Make mistakes on paper before you make them with dollars. It’s a really good exercise to really think through your business model.  (more…)

Starting a business is not an easy decision.

February 4, 2012

The risk and stress involved can be overwhelming and can take it’s toll on the entrepreneur. At the end of the day, if all goes well it will be the most rewarding decision an entrepreneur will ever make.

Giving up a comfortable corporate job with excellent benefits and perks is truly a tough decision. A decision not to be lightly.

Transitioning out of the military and not having a job lined up can be extremely stressful. For many Veterans this is the reality. Especially for an Army Reserve or National Guard soldier that has just returned from a long deployment.

Many of the soldiers today find it hard to maintain long term employment because they don’t know if/when their next deployment is going to happen. A lot of young soldiers have taken on the role of a part time Active Duty soldier bouncing from deployment to deployment. Eventually they tire of the life or the deployments dry up and they are forced to seek full time employment.  (more…)

Why young entrepreneurs don’t have to start with BIG loans

February 3, 2012

In a recent study published by the Kauffman Foundation, young people listed two main challenges in becoming entrepreneurs: access to entrepreneurial training and access to capital.

There are many resources for young entrepreneurs to gain knowledge about starting their own business. The idea of funding your enterprise through sales is “The Lemonade Stand”approach. This idea can also be applied to funding entrepreneurial learning. Here are seven ways to get affordable entrepreneurial enlightenment without risking it all.

1.      Work for another entrepreneur to learn the ropes.

2. Read as many books and publications about entrepreneurship, start-ups and business as possible.

3. Volunteer for a company that needs extra assistance. See if there is a problem you can solve in a unique way, and take action.  (more…)

Free E-Guide to Help Your Business Prepare for Disaster

January 31, 2012

What runs through your mind when you flip on the evening news or catch the headlines on your mobile device and see that another tornado or hurricane has devastated town “X”, leaving countless businesses, not to mention residents, in dire straits? I’m guessing you feel empathy, perhaps followed by the question, “Wow, if that happened to me, would my business survive?”

Well, these are actually really important questions to be asking yourself, regardless of whether you live in an area prone to natural disasters. Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, and they’re not just physical. Virtual disasters that wreak havoc on IT networks can be just as destructive as physical catastrophes, paralyzing businesses and threatening their survival.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster and, of the remaining companies, at least 25 percent will close in two years. Furthermore, with fewer resources than larger corporations, SMBs have a harder time recovering from virtual and physical disasters than their larger counterparts.  (more…)

Veteran Entrepreneurs: Demonstrating Our Gratitude Through Acts of Support.

January 29, 2012

They served and fought on our behalf. They devoted years of their lives and many endured repeated deployments. Now is our opportunity to help them in return. 26% of returning veterans are not looking for a job or a degree: they’re looking to get into business for themselves, and we should all be contributing in one way or another to help. We can help returned vets build new lives and thrive as they launch new business and grow their piece of the “American dream” in these tough economic times.

Imagine the impact it would have if millions of experienced business people individually stepped up and did just one thing, like mentoring, coaching, investing, creating strategic partnerships, making introductions to contacts and connections to help further an enterprise, donating or discounting equipment or materials, office space, and so much more that might be needed. What a powerful thing it would be to show our gratitude in this way and pay it forward to help support local veteran entrepreneurs in our towns and neighborhoods all across the country. Imagine if the rest of us were to make a point of buying their products and services and do whatever we can to help give them a leg up.  (more…)

7 Ways to Make Your Kick-Off Gathering a Successful One

January 25, 2012

Hosting an event is a great way to kick off the New Year.  No matter the type, an event gives your business or organization an opportunity to make a more personal connection with the people you meet.  This can give you a huge advantage, especially in a tough economy.  Here are 7 ways to make your event a successful one and start 2012 off on the right foot:

1. Get the word out early. Sending a save-the-date email as soon as you firm up your event details allows invitees to reserve the time. You can follow up later and ask people to RSVP and register in advance. If you’re charging, ask people to pay in advance as well– they’ll be more likely to be there.

2. Create a sense of excitement and exclusivity. Everyone wants to feel like a VIP. Email a coupon to attendees that they can redeem at the door, or if there will be a cash bar, send a free drink ticket that attendees can redeem if they bring the coupon.

3. Increase the urgency when needed. As the registration deadline nears, send a reminder email to anyone you’ve invited who hasn’t signed up yet. For example, “Only 5 spots left. Register today!”  (more…)

Small Business… the Hope for America’s Future.

January 23, 2012

By Peter Justen –

When I’m asked to speak on small business, it always amazes me how few people realize the role small business plays in our economy.  Here are some interesting stats from the Small Business Administration.

  •  Small businesses Generate $5 Trillion in business in the US
  • Represent 99% of all employer firms
  • Pay 44% of total US payroll
  • 68% of employment
  • Employ 50% of private sector employees

These are the numbers that helped build our country, that keep our economy running strong, that create the jobs.  We don’t need bailouts or government assistance…all we need is the opportunity and the drive to make it happen.  (more…)