Small business owners who are overwhelmed with their workload or base of customers may consider putting out a fishing line to find some help in the form of employment opportunities. If you’re looking to hire someone, you’ll likely need to write up a job ad outlining the responsibilities for such a position and the required qualifications to perform the work at-hand. Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, offers a few tips on writing a job ad:
– Come up with an appropriate job title.
Some people are in love with job titles, while others don’t really care for them. When writing a job ad, however, there needs to be a title to it. This could be anything from “Administrative Assistant” to “Landscaper” to “Marketing Manager.” If a title doesn’t come to mind easily, consider the job requirements and what broad area a new employee would be working in.
– Explain your company and its goals.
Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, recommends putting in a short summary of your small business. This could include name, location, year established, size, and any other pertinent details you feel job candidates should be aware of before applying. In addition, it’s worth writing a sentence or two outlining your company’s goals. This should have a positive spin that would persuade individuals to apply and have a desire to work for you.
– Clearly define the job’s responsibilities.
This is perhaps the most important section of any job posting. What will the person be doing? What type of physical labor is involved, if any? Is travel required? How will the new employee’s duties alleviate some of your stress and benefit your business? Don’t forget to include a schedule of working hours if you’ve determined that, along with part-time, full-time, or contract work. You may want to lay out this information using bullet points.
– Clearly define the job’s qualifications.
This section should detail what skills, education, and experience a job candidate should possess to be considered for your opportunity. What type of degree should they have? How many years of experience should be on their resume? What special skills would make them an ideal candidate for the position? Remember that many applicants will apply for jobs for which they meet most of the qualifications – not necessarily all of them.
– Be leery of including specific compensation details.
Some people look specifically for salary information when searching for jobs. So, Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, notes that there are both pros and cons to including specific compensation information. It’s more of a subjective thing. You could put a range of wages, such as $12 – $15 per hour, but then qualify this range with a phrase like “depending on experience.” If you plan to offer benefits, you may not need to specify them in detail, unless you think they’d persuade more quality candidates to apply.
– Specify what applicants need to give you and how to apply.
Let applicants know what information they need to give you – and how to deliver it. Consider asking for a resume in a specific file format (.docx, .pdf, etc.). You may want them to write a cover letter explaining their background and why you should hire them. You could ask for work samples, such as writing samples if you’re hiring for a copywriter or website links if you need a web designer. You might even want to ask candidates to send desired salary requirements if you don’t list this information. Tell applicants how to get all of this to you – by e-mail, by dropping it off at your office, by phone, or through any other creative method.
Job interviews often involve multiple steps to determine who the best fit is for a particular job within a small business. Phone interviews may be part of this process. If you’re a small business owner and have to interview job candidates by phone, Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, offers the following tips on conducting a solid phone interview:
1. Keep it short
Who truly enjoys having a lengthy phone conversation? Nobody likes holding up a phone to their ear for a long time. So, when conducting a phone interview, do your best to keep the conversation short. Think of 10 or 15 minutes as being the maximum length you should go for. A phone interview should allow you to feel a person out and learn how they communicate, and this can be done in a short amount of time. Plus, if you’re doing multiple phone interviews, you probably want to get through them relatively quickly to schedule face-to-face interviews and move forward with the process.
2. Only ask basic questions
Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, recommends only asking basic questions of a job candidate. Meeting with someone in-person is when you should delve a little deeper, assuming the person will be working with you in-person. Over the phone, have the person give a brief overview of themselves. Ask them about their goals and why they’d be a good fit for the position. If there are specific skills you’re hunting for, be sure to bring up questions related to these during the phone interview. Just don’t go overboard.
3. Let the candidate speak to avoid awkwardness
Do you ever feel uncomfortable or awkward when speaking to someone by phone, and you keep cutting them off or they keep talking over you? We’ve all experienced this. To make a job candidate for your small business feel comfortable, refrain from cutting off the person. Let them fully answer every question you ask, and wait a few seconds before responding or asking your next question. There could be a delay or poor connection, so it may not be anyone’s fault. But, to avoid all of this, simply abide by this tip.
4. Use a land line
So many people use cell phones these days. In fact, a good majority of people no longer even have a land line in their homes. However, when conducting a phone interview with a job candidate, it is highly recommended that you find a land line you can use to do the interview. This doesn’t mean the other person will necessarily be on one as well, but it should help make the call as clear and easy to hear as possible. You’ve probably had many experiences where you can’t hear someone on a cell phone or they can’t hear you. Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, says to take every precaution you can to make phone interviews as painless as possible for all parties on the line. This is one good way to do that.
Small business owners and individuals alike must often keep some of their personal belongings in a storage unit for various reasons, especially if they are moving. But does the IRS allow these storage expenses to be written off on your tax return when filing it? Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, explains.
Under the popular moving expenses deduction, you can deduct unreimbursed moving costs you incur when transferring household goods and personal belongings from your old residence to a new place. The main caveat with this is that your move has to be related to work, such as relocating in order to change jobs. The deductible costs you pay to complete this move include the rent money you spend to keep items in storage and insurance fees you pay to ensure these items are safe. However, there is a limit on how much you can write off. According to IRS rules, you can only deduct the expenses of renting a storage unit for a maximum of 30 days if you’re unable to move into your new residence immediately after moving out of your old one.
When it comes to small businesses, there is often a lengthy list of expenses that entrepreneurs are on the hook for. Storage costs can appear on this list, and these expenses may not always be temporary because of long-term storage needs for certain companies. In general, the IRS allows most storage costs to be deducted as a business expense. Perhaps you keep your inventory in a storage unit or warehouse that you don’t own and is separate from your primary business location. Maybe you run an online store selling small pieces of refurbished furniture that you buy at garage sales or consignment shops and fix up to resell. As long as these items are directly tied to your small business, Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, says you can almost always write off the storage costs you incur to keep them in a separate unit or room for future access and use.
As long as you qualify, don’t hesitate to claim any storage expenses as a tax deduction when filing your income tax return with the IRS. The price of renting a storage unit can be expensive in certain areas, particularly if you rent it out for several months or even years. So, at the very least, take advantage of the tax savings on these costs when possible. Bert Seither, The Startup Expert™, also suggests checking out other relevant deductions you can use to reduce your tax liability and put more of your hard-earned money back in your pocket instead of going to Uncle Sam. These may include the vehicle deduction, the home office deduction, and writing off health insurance premiums.
We’ve all seen the various online review websites out there that allow customers to write about their experiences at all sorts of businesses. There are some great advantages to what these sites offer, but there are also a number of noteworthy drawbacks to keep in mind. Small business advisor Bert Seither takes a closer look at these pros and cons of online reviews for small businesses:
Thanks to technological innovations, accessing online reviews about your local steakhouse, fishing shop, or clothing store is easier and faster than ever. There are lots of mobile apps that allow you to type in the name of a business into your phone and quickly pull up customer reviews about it. From the standpoint of small business owners, positive reviews are very beneficial to how others perceive a business before actually visiting it. When customers write about their fantastic experiences, it can be quite convincing that a company at-hand is the best option to go with. Experts say word-of-mouth referrals are at the top of the list for marketing strategies. Reviews from real people are exactly what others like to see.
Like most things, you have to take some bad along with the good. This is so true for the world of online reviews, Bert Seither says. If someone writes a negative review about your small business, it can be extremely damaging. People inherently put more weight into a negative review versus a positive one. Plus, it can be tough – and impossible in many cases – to moderate these reviews. If a competitor or ex-employee writes something bad about your company, there may be no way to remove it from the web. This unfiltered ability to put anything on a review site anonymously is a major drawback.
Increasing positive online reviews
There are a few things you can do to increase the number of positive things that people write about your company on the Internet. Give happy customers a link to a review site, and offer them an incentive for posting a positive testimonial. Enable the reviews feature on your company’s Facebook page, and encourage your fans to use it. Building ongoing relationships with your satisfied customers is critical to having them spread the good things about what you offer to their friends, family, and online users.
What it all means
The most effective way to ensure the reputation of your business is strong in the online review realm is to be honest, trustworthy, and conduct your business with integrity. You can’t prevent someone from writing something negative, but you can make every effort to be certain that no customer ever has a bad experience with you. This means using the best practices and making smart decisions on how you do things. According to Bert Seither, it’s usually the small business owners who try to cover things up and fail to meet the expectations of their customers who can get in hot water through bad online reviews. As far as what you can do, occasionally search for your business name on Google and check out what is out there. If you see good things, you should be in good shape. If you see negative comments, use them as motivation to work harder each day. If you don’t find anything, just remember that you likely will in the near future if your business continues to prosper.
From desktops to tablets, computers and web-enabled devices of all types make up a major part of our personal and professional lives every single day. So this begs the question: does the cost of a new computer qualify as an IRS tax deduction? Small business advisor Bert Seither explains:
It’s always nice to get a simple “yay” or “nay” answer to an IRS tax question to make the tax-filing process as simple as possible. In the case of deducting computer costs, however, there is some gray area when answering this question. Generally speaking, buying a computer is viewed as a personal expense in the eyes of the IRS. This means such a personal purchase would not qualify as a deduction on your taxes. Fortunately, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you buy a computer and use it more than half the time conducting business-related activities, the cost of the computer would qualify as a tax deduction. If you strictly use the machine for personal reasons, such as for playing games, downloading movies, or uploading photo albums to Facebook all night, its cost would not qualify for the deduction. This means purchasing a computer should fall under the business expense category for the IRS to let you claim it as a write-off, even if you use it in a home office instead of a traditional office setting.
Any hardware, software, or other electronic items may also qualify as a tax deduction. As mentioned earlier, they would have to be classified as business-related expenses. These kinds of items could include bookkeeping software, web design software to create a business website, or a Bluetooth microphone that you use to conduct online presentations for your clients. The increase in the various electronic and computer-related items has been tremendous over time, so just make sure whatever an item is at-hand is used most of the time for business reasons to claim it on your return.
In addition to being categorized under the business expense umbrella, Bert Seither also points out that technological costs may qualify as an IRS write-off for educational reasons. Computers are a big part of the education world and are used by students of all ages. If you purchase a computer and use it for educational purposes, it may qualify as an itemized tax deduction if it’s not already covered by an education-related tax break, like the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Although the prices of all types of computers have come down considerably in recent years, purchasing one of these high-powered machines can still take a big bite out of any budget, especially if you’re a financially-strapped small business owner. This is why you should take full advantage of deducting this cost if you use a computer for work or education reasons. Bert Seither recommends looking into all business tax deductions to ensure you keep more of the hard-earned money you make in your business bank account instead of in Uncle Sam’s hands.
There are a number of transitions we all have to make throughout the course of our lives. From high school graduation to getting married, new adventures present both exciting and challenging times. A similar transitional life event involves moving from working at a day job to running a small business full-time. Small business advisor Bert Seither offers the following pieces of advice on getting through this process successfully:
– Leave your day job at the right time
Just because an entrepreneur officially launches a new small business with the state does not mean this person can immediately bid farewell to an employer. In fact, you may have to keep your day job for some time before you fully commit to running a company. Find the right time that is appropriate for you in order to decide when it’s best to move on. A regular paycheck and benefits are hard to turn down, so use caution and be sure you are confident in your decision.
– Make sure you are financially stable
Due to the incredibly long list of expenses related to diving into a business venture, having a financial cushion is such a major part of this picture. The last thing you want to happen is for you to go bankrupt because you failed to plan your finances for the future. Take plenty of time to write down specific dollar amounts on expenses and potential income for your new enterprise. Don’t give up your day job until you have a solid financial backbone to fall back on in the event of a worst-case scenario in which you are scrambling to find gainful employment again.
– Make sure you have the time to commit to a business
Working 40 or 50 hours per week at a job is one thing, but keeping up with the constant demands of a business is a whole different ballgame. Map out your time commitment and availability so that you know you’ll have enough time to devote to the company once you are fully invested in it in terms of both time and money. Your time will obviously get freed up when you leave a day job, but you’ll be faced with a brand new set of challenges as far as managing your time is concerned. Bert Seither believes the best thing to do is to compile a potential schedule for yourself, taking into account every last detail of being a business owner.
– Be open-minded
While traditional employment often puts boundaries around what someone does every day, succeeding in the business world requires an open-minded thinker. There are so many responsibilities you may be totally unfamiliar with. With that said, you should dive into a business with your eyes and ears open to potential customers, investors, and those who can steer you in the right direction.
– Get assistance
You simply can’t run a business entirely on your own like you may be able to do at a day job. Seek advice and appropriate assistance on anything you don’t know how to do or where to turn. Countless services are available for small business owners, including organizations that can assist you specifically in your job-to-company transition. By getting this help, you’ll be in good hands moving forward with your decision.
– Ensure your business is viable
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bert Seither says having a viable business plan in place is absolutely necessary when choosing to fully dedicate your time to an entrepreneurial enterprise. Of course, many entrepreneurs already set up their businesses prior to leaving a job and begin to see income from it. This offers a great barometer to see some real success so you know you’re doing the right thing. However, no matter what stage in this process you may be at, having a viable plan that will work for you and make you enough money to sustain your life is what you should focus on the most. If you are all set and ready to roll, proceed cautiously, and enjoy the ride.
Not only is launching a brand new small business very time-consuming, but also it can be quite costly. This is why having a good handle on the startup costs of a company is a must. Bert Seither, who assists small business owners in putting them on a path to success, suggests asking yourself these questions to get a rough estimate of your startup expenses:
1) What type of business structure will you have?
Registering a formal business entity with your local state costs money. Even though it may not break your budget, it’s certainly worth lumping into the category of startup costs. Registration fees typically apply to businesses like corporations and LLCs. If you take a more informal structure like a sole proprietorship or partnership, you may not be required to pay such a fee.
2) Will you work from home or have a separate location?
Working out of a home office and working out of a separate location are two very different approaches to take when starting a company. Because of this, the costs associated with each of these options are also quite different. If you work from home, you can save some money by avoiding the costs of rent, insurance, utilities, and other expenses related to operating your business out of a different location. In fact, home-based business owners may already have everything they need in terms of office supplies, computers, desks, and other tangible items. Business owners working in office complexes or in retail stores often incur additional costs on top of what they’re paying for their personal costs of living. You should estimate these amounts to get an idea of how much you’ll owe in startup costs according to where your business is based.
3) What items/services will you need to run the business?
All small businesses have to pay for a wide array of items and services in order to stay in business and be profitable, Bert Seither says. For example, will you need a separate work laptop with special software on it? Will you need separate Internet access, phone service, or even an accounting firm onboard to help your company run smoothly? Will you need to invest in a digital sign to put outside your store, or will you opt for a flashy website with cool graphics and high-quality videos to promote your business? Whether it’s a physical item or an intangible service, many of these expenses fall under the startup costs umbrella, and you should write down each and every one of them to make a reasonable calculation about them. Remember that some of these are one-time costs and some will be ongoing.
4) What items/services will you offer that cost money to produce?
Production costs can be quite hefty, so you should have a firm grasp on how much it’ll cost to make your products, where they’ll be produced, and how many you intend to create over a given timeframe. If you plan to sell services, make sure you cover the costs of both time and money spent on providing these services so that you can set reasonable rates for them, while also getting a solid return on your investment. Bert Seither recommends shopping around when dealing with the costs of inventory and other things so that you get the best deal and the best quality at the same time in order to reduce your startup and ongoing business expenses.
Keep in mind that many startup costs are tax deductible. When making your calculations, don’t forget that you should be able to write off some of these expenditures to reduce your tax liability and help you save more of the hard-earned revenue your business generates.
The most basic business structure that exists is known as a sole proprietorship. Even though there are many business structures out there that come with their own unique advantages, operating a sole proprietorship can work well for the right businesspeople, especially in the initial stages of doing business. Bert Seither, who works with small business owners in all walks of life, explains some of the benefits of operating such a business.
Like its name implies, a sole proprietorship generally involves just one individual doing business on their own. Because of this, a sole proprietorship is considered the most basic type of entity to set up, in addition to being the least expensive. Other than any licenses, certifications, or permits that may be required to do business, there is really no formal registration required to run a sole proprietorship. In reality, many individuals are considered sole proprietors without even knowing they have this designation. These can be nice advantages since sole proprietors can avoid having to pay any registration fees at the state or federal levels, and they don’t have to deal with the often endless amounts of paperwork that have to be filled out when establishing other types of entities.
Bert Seither says that sole proprietors have plenty of control over their businesses. You can make all of the decisions on what your company does, from the initial startup phase to everything about how it is maintained. You don’t have to worry about other individuals who may wish to change certain facets of the company. If you have lots of confidence in your abilities as a small business owner, there may be no reason to have a business partner or any employees, although there can be employees involved in such a business in some instances. Additionally, there are limited government rules and regulations that apply to sole proprietorships. They are also very appealing to some because they aren’t required to hold annual meetings, and sole proprietors do not have to be U.S. residents or citizens. This is a great benefit for non-U.S. residents who wish to operate their own businesses.
Sole proprietorships are different from other business structures because they aren’t taxed at the corporate level as separate entities. As such, taxes on them are fairly easy to understand and fulfill for the IRS. Sole proprietors simply report their business-related profits, losses, deductions, and other activities right on their personal income tax returns. No special returns have to be filed with the IRS. This tax structure is viewed as the most basic among all types of business entities, making it very attractive to operate for certain business owners.
Although sole proprietorships work well for many business owners, Bert Seither warns that there are some things to consider before choosing this option. Sole proprietors are on the hook for a 15.3% self-employment tax and generally endure higher audit rates than owners of corporations and LLCs. These other structures are also more formal in nature. However, it’s extremely important to look at a potential business with a big-picture perspective to make the most appropriate decision.
The never-ending question of how best to market a small business continues to persist even today. It’s clear that there is no magic formula that fits all businesses. It takes time, effort, and a bit of luck to strike the cords of potential customers who end up purchasing from a business. Bert Seither, who specializes in assisting small business owners, offers the following marketing tips for small businesses to have a good chance of getting some attention:
Target your marketing strategies as much as possible
A small business should be marketed based clearly on what it offers. This will enable you to target the potential clients or customers who could benefit from what you’re selling. If these individuals are more likely to find your business by seeing a sign on the side of the road, give this method a try. If they’re tech-savvy, consider Internet marketing. If they listen to talk radio, make this an option for you as well. The bottom line is that you should try to make your marketing efforts as visible as you can to the individuals who’d be most likely to do business with you.
Think outside the box
You have to be open-minded when it comes to marketing, Bert Seither says. However, some of the most basic tactics can work extraordinarily well, so you don’t have to be as creative as Picasso to be good at it. Just think a little outside the box, and consider the best methods of how to express what you offer in a format that’s most appropriate to tell your story. Look at how other successful businesses have done marketing. You may be able to pick up some cues from them without copying exactly what they’ve done.
Use online marketing
If you’re looking for inexpensive marketing opportunities, the Internet should be your best friend. From website advertising to using popular social media sites, there are lots of ways to show off your business on the computer and smartphone screens that potential customers are looking at. With so many web-ready devices out there these days, Internet marketing has basically become a necessity for small business owners who are looking to drive more customers to their businesses. The good news is that it should cost you less than using traditional pre-Internet marketing strategies to do this.
Clarify how your small business is unique
Effective marketers know how to uniquely express what a business offers. This means communicating how its products or services differ from others. Make these offerings shine brightly by describing them with terms that show how they are unlike what other businesses sell. Bert Seither recommends using language like, “Our product is better than others because it can benefit you in different ways. Others sell products that don’t offer these unique capabilities, so consider going with ours instead.”
Word-of-mouth can spread like you wouldn’t believe, and this starts by marketing yourself as a business owner. Attend events, hand out business cards, introduce yourself to strangers, and do everything you can to make sure everyone you know is aware of your company. Once others associate your name and face with your business, they’ll probably be more tempted to want to do business with you.
The old saying goes that “the customer is always right.” It’s usually never the intention of a small business owner to do something that may negatively affect a customer, but as human beings, we’re not perfect. Bert Seither, a small business expert, has a few suggestions on how to handle complaints from customers who patronize a small business.
Complaints can come in a variety of forms. A customer could call your business, e-mail you, visit your store, or even post it on your company’s Facebook page. Some customers are respectful enough to be level-headed about their complaints, while others can be extremely rude in how they approach the situation. Regardless of how a complaint is brought to your attention, you should treat each one cautiously and professionally.
According to Bert Seither, the first thing to do is to find out why exactly someone is upset with a product, service, or other aspect of your business. Listen to what someone has to say by making them feel like they matter. Identifying the problem will give you clues about what caused it. This makes it easier to come up with a workable solution. Some issues take minimal time to resolve. Others are more complex and take patience and a willingness to make them better, no matter what’s involved.
You should also be open-minded with all of your customers. Put yourself in the shoes of someone in the same boat. What would you do? How would you feel? What would your expectations be of the business you’re dealing with? If you can somehow get a glimpse into this mindset, it will help in your decision-making when it comes to handling complaints. Also, you should be open-minded about offering free or discounted options to anyone with a valid objection. On the other hand, not all complaints are even close to being legitimate, so discuss these issues with others whenever possible.
Bert Seither says the key to solid customer service is to quickly resolve a problem and make sure the customer is satisfied. Sometimes you’ll have to put everything else on hold to ensure you do what the customer expects, as long as these requests are within reason. The longer you wait, the more likely a customer will end up going elsewhere – and they might tell others about their bad experience with your business, even if you intended to take care of the situation.