Goals Setting for Small Business: Managing Action Plan, Target Dates, Actual and Intended Performance

Goals Setting for Small Business

One way for small business owners or entrepreneurs to manage and improve chances for success is to set goals that will accomplish the business strategies through various business activities. For each goal, a plan of action should be indicated and target dates specified for each goal’s achievement. As each target date is due, actual performance can be compared with intended performance.

Criteria of Effective Goals

You can increase the chances of your goals being reached successfully if you can follow the following criteria:

Goals are Written

In business jargon, a goal that isn’t in writing isn’t a goal, as management experts will say. By writing down the things a business owner wants accomplished, goals are realized. Written rules not only clarify but enable to keep focus attainment of the business objectives.

Goals are Measurable

Goals are measured to ensure that business activities are aligned to business objectives. For example, as a form of measurement, after a year or two, the criteria for judging whether goals have been attained could be through sales volume, profits, losses, memberships in specific organizations, write-ups in newspapers and magazines, and so on.

Goals are Scheduled

Each goal set should have a specific time frame for its completion. If a date needs to be moved forward or pushed back, it can be done. Having a completion date to shoot for will make it much easier to schedule or re-schedule the work needed to accomplish goals and to monitor progress.

Goals are Realistic

If goals are set unrealistically, a business owner is setting himself or herself up to failure. Few people become instant millionaires or earn enough to retire within six months of starting their business. A profile of similar business owners in the field being pursued can be studied to find out how long it took them to do it, bearing in mind that circumstances vary from one owner to another.

Goals are Worthwhile

In order to motivate, to achieve, or to be worth working for, goals must be worthwhile. If goals require stretch or extra efforts, reward should be provided when achieved.

Participative Goals

This is important to ensure commitment. No business wants to fail. Although imposed goals may be accepted, they will not receive as much commitment as when those responsible for achieving them are participants in setting them.

Flexible Goals

This is in case of conditions that change dramatically beyond control in which predetermined goals become unattainable. When this happens, goals should be re-evaluated in fairness to those responsible for achieving them.

Finally, here’s a tip on priorities:

Priorities need to be set after goals are determined. It is possible to have clearly defined goals, but still not have meaningful priorities because goals haven’t been ranked in order of importance.

U.S. Pledges $6 Billion for Small Business Exports

Small Business Exports

It is the Obama administration’s goal to double exports in five years according to Mark Drajem in his article, “Locke Pledges Aid for Small U. S. Business Exports, Update Report 1,”, Bloomberg Business Week issue. This increased emphasis on small business and exports should add two million jobs to the economy.

The additional money that is now targeted to small businesses for export financing and the new emphasis being placed on unfair trade barriers to the United States should make a positive difference according to Secretary Locke.

Doubling Exports

Locke feels that doubling exports in five years is entirely realistic within the framework of the U.S. strategy. This strategy entails the increase of funding to $6 Billion a year from $4 Billion for small businesses through the U.S. Import-Export Bank; increasing the number of foreign service officials in fast growing nations like China, India and Brazil; and fighting unfair trade barriers to U.S. made products.

This new emphasis on increasing exports by the small business sector, according to Locke, should address an economic blind spot in the U.S. economy. In recent years, the U.S. has allowed international competition to weaken its manufacturing superiority. This increase of export funding and greater emphasis on combating unfair trade barriers to American manufactured products should make a positive difference.

Trade Agreements

Finishing trade agreements with South Korean, Panama, and Columbia is vital to the U.S.’s export expansion according to Secretary Locke. These three accords were negotiated by the Bush administration and are awaiting congressional approval. U.S. exports to South Korea will jump $11 billion if the deal is approved by congress according to the U. S. International Trade Commission.

Ed Gresser of the Democratic Leadership Council and Howard Rosen, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for Economics, feel the goal of doubling exports in five years can be achieved. Gresser indicated that increasing promotion alone won’t achieve the goal. The new emphasis on having a strong export program should include countries with huge mass markets like China, India, Canada, and countries in Europe.

Yuan is Key

Peter Morci, an economist at the University of Maryland, believes the U.S. must crack the China market in order to double exports. Mr. Morci feels China must raise the value of their currency, the yuan. Obama has vowed to get much tougher with enforcing trade rules with China.

Obama will also be pressing China on increasing the value of their yuan. Marc Drajem reports that the yuan has been pegged at 6.83 per dollar since July of 2014. China has ignored calls for raising the yuan from the U.S. and several European countries.

Small Business and Exports

Increased government funding for small business exports is creating a vital jobs engine for the United States. President Obama is aiming for an additional 2 million jobs in five years. New emphasis by the U.S. on fighting against trade barriers that are unfair to American manufactured products and pressures being placed on China regarding their yuan should significantly enhance U.S. exports.

Free Software to Reduce IT Costs for your Small Business

Free Software to Reduce IT Costs for your Small Business

Anyone who has looked in to starting a small business knows it can be somewhat daunting when you start looking in to the potential costs of IT. It can be far too easy to listen to that salesman telling you that you need to invest large amounts of money to do the most simple of tasks.

If you are willing to spend a bit of time researching alternatives away from the companies that want to close a sale there really is a great deal of free software available to reduce your costs as a new or existing business.

Just because a task is being done in an office shouldn’t make the necessary software triple in price when compared to a home product. This is a list of three pieces of freely available software that are sure to optimise your office setup whilst reducing IT expenditure.

 Google Sync for Blackberry, iPhone and Outlook

Syncing your Outlook calendar and contacts wirelessly with your iPhone or Blackberry without subscribing to an expensive third party has always been a dream. This dream is now a reality with the efficiency of the Google Sync application.

Create a free G-mail account for each of your staff, and then download the free application to each computer. After this all you need to download is the necessary and freely available plug-in for your Blackberry or iPhone through the App Store on the device.

You can configure the sync relationship to sync your calendar and contacts from your Outlook to your handhelds and vice versa. To simplify, both devices will keep the latest information, and with sync intervals adjustable to a few minutes it is a clear cost reducer.

Skype Manager

Skype has recently started concentrating on corporate clients a great deal more and with this increased demand for business implementation they have released the Skype Manager. This is a great piece of software that incorporates a useful amount of business features. Conference calls, Video Conferencing, Office Instant Messenger, Voicemail, Call Divert and due to the fact that it uses VOIP (Voice over IP) technology through your company internet the savings on calls each month can be surprising.

You can even setup a standard office number for clients to call without them knowing you aren’t using a conventional telephone system. The Skype Manager allows centralised access to manage each of your employee’s calls and available credit. A large amount of small and large businesses are moving to Skype and other VOIP services to reduce costs. Why can’t you? All you need are some decent wireless headsets.

TAS Basics Free Accounting Software

Some of the accountancy software on the market comes at a high cost and in most cases a small business won’t necessarily have a need for all of the costly features that come with this cost. TAS Basics is a completely free piece of accountancy software that the developers claim they will never charge for.

All they ask is that if you ever need more features to consider them for the more extensive packages they sell. It comes with all the accounting essentials such as the ability to reconcile your accounts and keep track of invoices. It even holds a client database so you can stay up to date with money owed to you and money that your business owes.

This really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing your IT expenditure. Try to really spare some time to investigate upcoming costs. A good idea is to research other businesses on and offline to discover what solution they have in place. If you use this level of cautiousness with each aspect of your IT you will successfully reduce costs within your business indefinitely.

Small Business Advice: How to Spot Difficult Customers

Small Business Advice

Small businesses depend on regular customers who return to the business again and again for services. And in order to grow, entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for new customers in need of the services the business offers. But one bad customer–one who doesn’t pay bills, who makes impossible demands or who requires inordinate amounts of employee time— can drain the business. Learning to spot these difficult customers ahead of time and head off problems can save more time and resources for the kinds of clients that will help the business grow and succeed.

The Micro-Manager

This person wants to control every detail of the project. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a customer who cares about a project and wants to be involved, but presumably the client hires a contractor because of the contractor’s expertise. Customers who demand constant accounting, who want numerous meetings and frequent detailed reports may eat up more time than the project warrants.

Signs the Customer May be a Micro-Manage:

  • Insistence on numerous (unpaid) meetings before the client is willing to make a commitment.
  • Frequent changes/additions to the details of the project in the planning phases.
  • Insistence that things be done the client’s way, even when the client isn’t an expert.

The Penny Pincher

Everyone wants to save money these days, and to survive, small businesses must be competitive. But stingy clients may be reluctant to pay bills on time or in full, and can leave a contractor with more headaches than the job is worth.

Signs the Customer May be a Penny Pincher:

  • Insistence on ignoring regulations, permits, or safety in the interest of saving money.
  • Excessive cutting corners.
  • Numerous complaints about rates, supply costs, etc.

The Scam Artist

Most businesses are honest, but occasionally contractors run into scam artists who set out from the beginning to cheat them. Some people think they can take advantage of small businesses, which may be more desperate for work or who may not have a corporate legal department behind them. Scammers lie, don’t pay the bills, and may disappear without notice.

Signs a Customer May Be a Scam Artist:

  • Has a bad reputation with other contractors.
  • Changes stories often or is evasive about basic information such as where to send bills or who will be paying.
  • Frequent turnover of employees, addresses or bank accounts.
  • Unwilling to offer references.

Solutions for Problem Clients:

  • Refuse to do business with them. Especially avoid scam artists.
  • Ask for partial payment up front.
  • Build in extra hours/money in the contract to allow for more meetings, phone calls, time spent on certain jobs.
  • Detail all expectations and consequences in the contract.
  • Call their bluff. Some micro managers and penny pinchers will back down if alerted from the start that their behavior is unacceptable.

Small business owners should always trust their instincts when dealing with clients. If the client sets off alarms early in the relationship, it might be best to look for business elsewhere.

The IRS Website–Small Business Expenses

The IRS Website--Small Business Expenses

A trick of the trade for a tax professional in a super hurry is to “Google” the tax subject and then select the IRS link that rises to the top of the Google search. The IRS website is very large. The entire Internal Revenue Manual (their in-house training and instructions) is posted on their website. Learning to use their advanced search options is helpful, but can still be a time-consuming endeavor. There are 15 areas into which a taxpayer can narrow its search for information on the IRS website.

Most Taxpayers Do Not Know About the Business Section of the IRS Website

The IRS has a series of Small Business Video and Audio Presentations pertinent to many current tax issues. The page can be found at this link http:/www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=97726,00.html and speaks for itself. There are topics ranging from business income, cancelled debt, recordkeeping, closing a business, employment taxes, employing family members, the IRS collection process, online auctions—to list a few. These presentations are well-done and when possible (if not limited by the complexity of the topic), very complete.

On this page also is a link to the “Small Business Tax Workshop Video.” This is a good video, AND in conjunction with the other videos on this page PLUS a taxpayer’s consultation with its tax professional, should give many a small business owner (self-employed or corporate) a good basis for knowing what is needed to keep the records organized and claim their legitimate deductions.

Finding Other Information Relating to Self-Employment on the IRS Website

Reading the menu bar of this busy website is helpful. Underneath the IRS logo in the upper left corner there is a ribbon-type menu. It starts with “Individuals,” followed by “Businesses.” Using this menu bar can save a searcher time.

Once the searcher (or taxpayer) clicks “Businesses” on the ribbon menu, a set of business types appears immediately below. Then also notice on the left are several other links within the website relating to topics that may be of interest to small business owners.

The Taxpayer Is Responsible for the Veracity of Its Federal Income Tax Return.

Learning how to find relevant information on the IRS website is an art because of the size of the website. Learning how to zoom in on the topics of interest to a business taxpayer can be very helpful to a taxpayer in expanding upon the knowledge it gains from short articles on the Internet.

Marketing a Small Business for Little to No Cost

Marketing a Small Business for Little to No Cost

Many people associate marketing with television, radio and print ads, but marketing includes any tools or strategies used to spread awareness and good word-of-mouth about your business. Potential clients or customers typically need to see your business name several times before they will be willing to pick up the phone and dial your number. Good small business marketing does take time, so don’t expect instant results. Use marketing tools to plants seeds for future business opportunities. It can take three months or more to see results from most low-cost marketing strategies.

Business Marketing Points

Figure out what sets your business apart from the competition. Why would a prospective customer choose your business over other local businesses that provide similar services? Check out the competition. Make a list of all the things that make your business better. These will be your key marketing points.

Media Marketing: Submit Press Releases

Write press releases about anything your business does that is even remotely newsworthy. Submit your press releases to your local community newspaper and area newspapers with wider readership. When newspapers have a small amount of blank space to be filled, they often use press releases to fill that space. You will also be putting your name in front of local media representatives. If a reporter needs to interview someone in your business field, she is more likely to contact you if your name is familiar to her. Did your business donate to a local charity auction? Submit a press release. Do you offer a service no other local business offers? Submit a press release. Are you teaching classes or running a promotion? Submit a press release. If you have a website for your business, publish your press releases to a “news” or “press release” page.

Social Media Marketing

Set up pages on social networking sites solely for your business. Utilize Facebook and Myspace. Update your status at least daily, and list any special offers, sales or promotions. Ask current clients to “follow” or “friend” your business; that way, friends of your current clients will see your information as well. Remember to stay positive in your posts on social networking sites and avoid any political, religious or negative posts or comments. These pages represent your business, not your personal views.

Blog Marketing

Start blogging about your business and the services you provide. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, write blogs about the different types of massages you provide, what first-time customers should know, and how massage therapy helps with different issues. Create two to three new blog posts each week. Share your blog posts on the social networking sites you created for your business. Use keyword research and search engine optimization to help web users find your blog. If you aren’t confident in your writing skills, find someone to ghostwrite your blog for pay or trade.

Marketing Communications: Newsletters for Clients

You can create an email newsletter that lists any specials, sales or promotions, links to your social networking pages, and information from your blog. Direct this newsletter to current clients and encourage forwarding to anyone who might find the information useful or interesting. If possible, include a special offer, discount or printable coupon that can only be received in the newsletter. Make sure you avoid spamming by always including a link to unsubscribe. Many online services, such as Constant Contact, offer tools to help design a newsletter as well as email database subscription services.

Marketing Communications: Newsletters for Referrers

It may be helpful to create an email newsletter for people who are likely to refer business to you. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, you may get referrals from chiropractors; direct an email newsletter to local chiropractic care providers and let them know why they should refer their patients to you. Include information from your list of things that make your business better than the competition. If you offer any incentives for referrals, include that information as well.

Marketing with Online Classified Ads

Many people find service providers by searching craigslist.com or other online classified ads. Consider paying the fee to post ads in the appropriate section. Keep your ad short and to the point, but make sure to include information about specials, promotions and sales. Update your ads weekly.

Directory Listing Marketing

Find listings for your business on as many online directories as possible and check them for accuracy and completeness. Claim listings whenever possible. Find your business on online map services and claim those listings as well. Keep the information current.

Marketing with Referral Programs

Word of mouth may be the easiest, least expensive way to increase your client base. Create a referral program to reward current clients for referring new clients to your business. Include an incentive. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, give the referring customer a discount on his next massage, or offer a free half-hour massage for every five paying referrals. Make sure all current clients are aware of your referral program. Always thank people for referring new customers to you.

Acquire Testimonials for Marketing

Ask current customers for testimonials about your business. Have a form for customers to fill out, and ask them to fill it out before they leave. Send emails to current customers asking for testimonials. Testimonials can be used on your website, blog, social networking sites and online ads. Make sure customers are aware that their testimonials may be published online.

Benefits of Starting a Small Business: Personal and Economic

Benefits of Starting a Small Business

Practically all governments provide small business help in different forms. The help ranges from small business advice to small business services such as organizing training programs. They do these things not just for the votes of the small business owners but also because they realize that the economy of the country depends on the contributions from small business.

Benefits of Starting a Small Business

Running her or his own business in an expression of freedom and dignity for the small businessperson and it also provides the person with a living. Small business owners can enjoy the rewards of their own skills, decisions and efforts. This is far from the case of a corporate employee, who typically has to spend a lot of time in political manoeuvres to protect his or her interests.

Small businesspersons are typically very interested in what they do and become quite skilled in doing it. They are also more well-rounded persons with multiple skills, including people skills. They have the opportunity to live their passions.

 Small businesses are less strictly regulated than big businesses, which have to file numerous returns with the government, and publish full information about their operating results and other aspects. Big businesses are also closely watched by the general public and receive a great deal of criticism for everything they do. As a small businessperson, you can remain more of a private person and focus on serving your customers and your community.

And many small businesses earn big money.

Benefits to Customers

Studies have indicated that small businesses are more ethical and responsible in their conduct than big corporations, which are often managed by ruthless managers who have worked their way up the corporate jungle the hard way. They are typically far removed from the customers they serve.

Small businesspersons, on the other hand, are close to their customers and realize that their very survival depends on satisfying their customers. The very small businessperson typically knows each and every customer individually and can cater to each in a personalized way. “Small is great for customers” as Dr Wilson remarks in an article on Small Business Benefits. As he remarks, the attempt to find the person who can help you will usually drive you batty in a megacorp.

Small business marketing tends to be more customer-oriented than a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) exercise.

Benefits to the Economy

Studies have revealed that more than half the jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses. They contribute more than one third of the total national income. And they drive innovation, accounting for more than half the technological innovations. They can also adapt to changing conditions in the market with far greater agility than corporate behemoths.

This is the major reason for governments to encourage small businesses. It is jobs that sustain an economy and innovations that lead to progress and growth. Any sector that contributes so hugely in these areas cannot but be critical to the economy.

Benefits to the Public

As mentioned earlier, studies have indicated that small businesses are more responsible and ethical. In general, they act more responsibly towards the environment and their communities. Few small businesses can cause damages such as a major oil spill or a major economic disaster that big businesses can.

The public is safer with small business, though they cannot do without big business in such sectors as constructing a huge dam or creating the communication infrastructure.

Small businesses sustain a country’s economy by creating more jobs and innovations, contributing in a major way to the national income and being more responsible in their behaviour. They are also able to meet niche customer needs that have too little volumes to interest big corporations. Above all, small businesses allow the small businessperson earn a living with independence and dignity. Benefits of small business are indeed many.

Free Small Business Inventory Control Software: Simple Assets Inventory Tracking and Management Systems Review

Free Small Business Inventory Control Software

Inventory software help people track equipment or materials of their assets in the business of retail, manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution. For example, a book store owner can find the stock of each book anytime with the help of book inventory software in his computer, while a wine retailer can track how many bottles of 2002 burgundy wine he has through a wine inventory program.

People can choose commercial or free inventory management systems for their business.

Barcode Inventory Software for Material Requirements Planning and Point of Sale

Proprietary inventory software may cost hundreds or thousands of US dollars, which depend on the differences of software companies, versions, numbers of users, and sometimes even the cost of hardware. For example, an edition of Wasp Barcode Inventory Software is priced at around $400, which uses a laser barcode scanner to automatically identify and record the inventory objects and track the sales. This kind of inventory system can be used as Point of Sale (POS) software or Material Requirements Planning (MRP) software. The best products in this catalogue also include Teklynx International, IntelliTrack, Seagull, IBM, Intuit, and Quickbooks inventory software.

Simple Online Web Based Inventory Systems

Online inventory software offers an easy way for business owners to get started. They can just sign up and use the inventory system online in minutes while don’t have to download or install any software. This kind of services includes:

InventoryBox is an online inventory management system. It integrates the functions of purchase management, point of sale, vendor management, accounting and invoicing services. InventoryBox offers a free version without the function of multiple-location inventory management, with which a user can send only 10 documents a month. Their unlimited enterprise version is priced at $99.95 a month.

Another online inventory service provider Visual Inventory offers a different pricing tactic. They sell their professional version at a set price of $1,995, which has no monthly fees.

Free Inventory Management Software Download

While commercial software or online services may cost thousands of dollars, there are a lot of kinds of free inventory management software available for small business owners or home users. They include:

Best Accounting Basic is inventory and property management software based on Best CashBook. Though this program is not freeware, anyone can get a key for free now. It offers the functions of financial and sale management, order management, inventory control, customer relationship, supplier management, and tax accounting.

NolaPro is a free web based inventory system that integrates the functions of ERP, accounting, and payroll software. It includes the modules of inventory tracking and management, payroll accounting, Point of Sale (POS), tax accounting, order management, and shopping cart. It allows unlimited simultaneous users and has no data restrictions. NolaPro is a good choice for online book or wine inventory systems.

Free inventory software are mature for traditional assets and property management, while modern systems using bar codes or RFID tags may need supports from software companies.

Congress Attempts Small Business Assistance: Bills Slowly Move Through the Houses

Congress Attempts Small Business Assistance

Democrats in both houses have proposed legislation to solve some of the capital problems small businesses still experience. If passed during the economic recovery, the bills would increase the government backing for bank loans and offer owners the opportunity to develop science and technology for the government.

Senator Landrieu and Representative Velazquez Still Follow President’s Lead

For the second year, the chairs of the two small business committees are acting to fulfill the President’s small business agenda. Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) said she supports all of his initiatives for increasing both the activity on main street and export volume. In her words, the measures are “simple, inexpensive ways we can make a big impact.” (Landrieu Praises President’s Commitment to Make Small Business a Key Priority). Representative Nydia Velazquez (NY) also approves of the agenda.

Obama made statements during the State of the Union speech proposing to help small businesses grow and create jobs. The first goal is to put more government dollars behind loans and credit offers so entrepreneurs can secure funds to finance plans. With more capital in the coffers, companies can afford to hire more workers.

Proposed Legislation Would Support Enterprise Success

The lawmakers are concerned many entrepreneurs still do not have the finances they need to float their boats during this period of economic uncertainty. Now that the recession has continued for over a year, reduced lending has prevented new start-ups and limited growth. More than 85 percent of the jobs lost were at small businesses.

Bill measures would increase government financial assistance to close the funding gap caused by the large drop in available credit. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship approved the Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act last December. If passed by the House, the money for the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) loan guarantees would increase and the guarantee limit would go up. The House passed similar legislation with a bipartisan vote of 389 to 32.

Without legislative action, two popular SBA programs for scientific and technological development will end. Entrepreneurs can benefit from government funding when they agree to work on new ideas for the Small Business innovation Research program or the Small Business Technology Transfer program. The two programs will receive lengthy extensions to 2020 and 2015, and more budget funds, if the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act passes the House.

The Small Business Export and International Trade Act would raise the SBA’s limits for total outstanding loans to small businesses that engage in international trade. Senators chose this proposal for the years Obama wants to create jobs by increasing exports. The congresspersons know owners of small enterprises contribute 29 percent of the export volume, but foreign trade is often too costly.

The House’s Ranking Republican Committee Member Stays on Middle Ground

Although Representative Sam Graves (MO) believes in creating jobs by stimulating small business growth, he opposes the legislative plan because owners would have too many financial limitations. (Opening Statement for Hearing on “Increasing Access to Capital for Small Business,”). With higher taxes to pay for health care, the greater loan funds are offset. In the Republican’s view, the enterprises can rely on entrepreneurial initiative to grow again if capital availability returns to a middle level, in between the height in 2010 and the low in 2013, and government does not regulate the growth.

Assistance Depends Upon Adequate Bipartisan Support in the House

The price small businesses have to pay for taxes could limit Republican support. The Senate Committee led by Mary Landrieu has approved the slate of bills that increase availability of funds for enterprises here and abroad. But, the full Presidential agenda has House Republicans concerned the funds will not be enough for owners to overcome cost concerns.

Representative Velazquez will have to convince enough Republicans they can trust that giving the SBA more money will improve the numbers of success stories. Without entrepreneurial success, the bipartisan goal for job creation can not be met.