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By Debbie Gregory.

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All small business owners have attempted to take a vacation that is inevitably interrupted with yet another crisis at work. You are currently on vacation and you are supposed to be relaxing and having a good time. Your phone won’t stop, your emails keep flowing in and instead of relaxing, you are furiously typing and scrolling away on your laptop.

 

It is easy to fall into the trap of working while on vacation. Most business owners never fully unplug from the office while supposedly vacationing. While this sounds like a good plan, you are unfortunately setting yourself up for more stress, anxiety, and total burnout.  Additionally, people who do not take at least one 1-week vacation a year are 30% more likely to have a heart attack and this number increases dramatically for women. So do yourself and your overall health a favor, and take a real vacation!

 

So, how do you truly let work handle itself for a while as you get some much needed R&R?

 

Setup a vacation plan:

Once you have selected your getaway, make sure that you work wit your team to be able to handle business while you are away.

  • Delegate tasks
  • Create backup plans
  • Make your communication boundaries clear
  • Make your availability clear
  • Make sure each employee knows what is expected of them
  • Empower your staff to handle problems should they arise

 

Setup a return plan:

You know that your first day back into the office will be a nightmare game of catching up. Your inbox will be full and your to-do list will be long. Take the time to pre-organize and prioritize what you will need to do once you return to work.

 

Use the three Ds – Delete, Delegate, and Deal.

  • Delete everything your team is already managing.
  • Delegate what you can have someone else handle.
  • Deal with what you need to take care of.

 

Setup a schedule:

If you absolutely must check in with your business, establish a daily and timed routine for checking in and stick to it. Deviating from your schedule, can lead you down the rabbit hole of emails, calls, and other work issues.

 

Only respond to real emergencies:

Not every situation requires your response. Make sure that you only engage if you absolutely have to.

 

Taking a true vacation can seem impossible for a small business owner.  With some careful planning and a bit of letting go, you can finally get the rest and relaxation that you desperately need. Now Unwind, relax and enjoy!

 

Loan Mistakes That Can Harm Your Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

At some point most businesses need to borrow money. Choosing the wrong type of loan can do irreparable damage to your business’s bottom line. There are countless financing options out there and the key is to choose the right one that fits your business needs and your ability to pay back the loan.

 

Choosing the wrong option can translate into less short-term on-hand cash for your business to spend.  It can also mean smaller overall profits as you pay down the loan, and a longer and more stressful search for your loan in the first place.

 

In order to select the correct option for your needs, you should make sure you avoid these mistakes:

 

1.) Not knowing your credit score:

Your personal credit is always a factor when applying for a business loan. It shows your creditworthiness and your ability to pay the loan off to the lender. A score of 700 or higher is considered good for a personal score.

 

These are credit reporting services where you can check your personal credit score:

 

These are credit reporting services where you can check your business credit score:

 

2.) Not doing your research:

It always pays to be prepared for the worst. Do not until you and your business is in dire need of cash to start the process of researching lenders and applying for loans. Do your research well in advance and keep a list of credible lenders on hand just in case you find that you need one.

 

3.) Not knowing your options:

Rates, fees, and terms for financing can vary greatly depending on where you go to obtain a loan and even the time of year you do it in. Make sure to do your due diligence and thoroughly research the options you are presented with.

 

4.) Not applying for enough money:

You never want to take out a loan only to find that you need another loan a few months later. Running a business comes with some uncertainty and unforeseen expenses that can pop up.   These may include new competition, equipment breakag, or employees quitting. Make sure that you are borrowing enough money to cover your immediate needs as well as anything unexpected that may come up.

 

5.) Not knowing your payment options:

Getting cash fast when your business is in a slump is very important, but you need to make sure that you will be able to pay the loan off once you are back on your feet. The payment schedule needs to fit with you and your business. If you cannot keep up with the payments, it can damage your credit and potentially lead to your business’s failure.

 

Getting the loan that you need shouldn’t be a stressful or scary experience. With proper planning and in-depth research you can be prepared for any possible disasters or downturn in your business. Taking out a loan is never something a business owner does lightly but done correctly it can add up to one result, a thriving business.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Part 2 of 3

 

It is never easy to start a business.  It involves very careful planning, evaluation, and a money to begin. The mindset of the entrepreneur beginning the business is one of the most important parts.

 

There is not any test or certification out there that states you are prepared to become a business owner or that you will start and run a successful business. Your mindset determines how motivated, driven, happy, and focused you are on making your business successful. Education is always valuable, but it will not fully prepare you to become an entrepreneur.

 

How do you improve your mindset to be successful?

 

-Your Responsibilities: You need to know and accept that starting a running your own business is a 24/7 job and that is going to have a major impact on your personal life. You will need to make sure that you are ok with missing events, holidays, weekends, evenings, etc. while you get your business up and running. Find out who you can lean on to take up the slack in your personal responsibilities.

 

-Your Personality: To run a successful business you need to be i flexible, patient, and prepared for the completely unexpected. If you tend to become overly stressed and/or irritable at the drop of a hat, you will be challenged with the turbulent nature of running a business.

 

-Your Motivation: Even though you are the “boss” of your new business, you still have customers, partners, lenders, and investors to answer to and they are your focus and priority.

 

-Your Willingness to Work With Others & Your Management Skills: Regardless of the type of business you begin, you will need to work with many other people including customers, employees, vendors, suppliers, partners, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and others. You can find strength and success in those people.  Take the time and energy to develop your people skills and your relationships.

 

-Your Network: As the saying goes “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Carefully cultivating a wide network of other entrepreneurs and professionals can help your business dramatically. Take the time to form relationships with successful people in like-minded businesses as well as differing business services – such as lawyers, lenders, influencers.

 

-Your Competitors: Knowing who your competition is and how they do business can help you determine what makes you different and how you will stand out. Use this information to build your brand and better your offerings.

 

-Your Relationship with Money:  Your financial management skills can make or break your business. If you spend money too freely, you will have cash flow problems with your business that can ultimately lead to closing. Make sure that you have the capital in place and you do not overspend.

 

-Your Scalability: Successful business owners simply cannot do everything on their own.   If your business cannot survive without your presence, you may need to rethink your business structure.

 

Working on yourself is the best way to ensure you are ready to run a business and make it successful.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Online resources and tools to help you start your business and run it.

 

 

By Debbie Gregory.

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Part 1 of 3

 

Starting a business isn’t easy – it involves very careful planning, evaluation, and a bit of cash to get started. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 30% of all businesses fail within their first year, approximately 1/2 close their doors within 5 years, and only 1/3 will make it to their 10th anniversary.

 

The reasons the businesses fail vary but often they revolve around lack of funding or lack of profits. Before starting a new business, you must spend the time and energy to build a solid foundation in order to survive and thrive.

 

Necessary Essentials:

 

1.) Evaluate yourself and your business idea

Before you start a business, it is an excellent idea to take stock of all of your own personal strengths and weaknesses. What are your skills? Where is your expertise? What are you passionate about? Why do you want to start a business?   Then look at ideas for the type of business you want to start. Are you improving on something that already exists or providing a new product or service?

 

2.) Do your market research

Once you know what you want to do, it makes sense to spend the time doing some in-depth exploration and analysis of your target market. You don’t want to launch a business blindly. Conducting research will help you determine whether or not your idea will be viable in the marketplace.

 

3.) Write out your business plan and make it official

After you have conducted your market research and you find that your offering will potentially be successful, you want to write out the blueprint for starting the business. Your business plan should detail the purpose of your business, your target customers, your long-term goals, and how you plan to finance the business until you are successful and profitable.  You will need to determine the right legal business structure  (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc), register your business with your local government, obtain any necessary permits/certificates/licenses, as well as trademarks/copyrights/patents (if applicable), you will need to open a bank account, and setup your legal team and plan (just in case).

 

4.) Get your business rolling

Once all of that is in place, select the location for your business, setup your location, and staff it. Make sure that you choose a location that is convenient for your target customers and not too close to your competition. Train your staff properly and make sure that you give them the tools they need to make your customers happy.

 

Regardless of how successful you become, never get too complacent. Your market and target audience will change over the lifetime of your business. Make sure that you devote the time and energy into regular evaluations of your offerings, your market, and your customers to see where you can improve.  Often you will need to hire specialists to help you and this is money well spent.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3 Part Series.

 

How To Reduce Small Business Lawsuits & Some Advice

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Small business owners will face the threat of a lawsuit at least once over the lifetime of their business. The financial impact of such a lawsuit can be devastating and can even put the company totally out of business. The lawsuit can also damage the company’s reputation, place stress on you and your employees and take valuable time away from other important parts of your business.

 

Small businesses are sued for a variety of reasons which are usually dependent on their industry.  Some reasons for lawsuits include but are not limited to product defects, noncompliance with regulations, breach of contract, and more.

 

Unfortunately, most lawsuits against small businesses are from unhappy employees. Employees that feel they have been treated unfairly, terminated unjustly, or disciplined in a way they felt was too harsh are more likely to sue if they feel they can gain financial compensation for their perceived mistreatment.

 

The most common employee-led lawsuits include:

  • Discrimination (age, sexual orientation, gender, religion, etc)
  • Harassment
  • Injury due to negligence
  • Wrongful termination
  • Salary and/or compensation violations

 

Occasionally the lawsuits will come from an unhappy customer. Most are legitimate claims against the business but of course occasionally you may run into a frivolous lawsuit.   There are some people who make a living out of filing lawsuits.  Regardless,  the negative impact to your business will be the same.

 

The most common customer-led lawsuits include:

  • Discrimination
  • Personal injury
  • Refusal of service
  • Unlawful activities (such as a hidden camera in the bathroom)

 

How can you reduce the threat of a lawsuit?

  1. Protect your assets with the proper insurance coverage. Business liability insurance can protect your personal finances as well as the business finances. Seek the advice of an insurance professional to find the right coverage for your business.
  2. Make sure you have good legal help ready and waiting just in case. It is always best to get to know a good lawyer that you can turn to for advice or representation when needed.
  3. Be careful with what you do and say. Never over promise, don’t make ludicrous claims, try to avoid saying anything that may harm you in the future, and never make overly specific claims about your products or services. This includes what is said and done with employees. Make sure all of your policies are clearly written out, easily accessible, consistent with federal, state and local laws and are followed.

 

If you do happen to get sued, or are threatened with a lawsuit, stay as calm as possible. Your first step will be to contact your lawyer and let them know the situation. Your legal counsel may be able to help mitigate the matter before it goes to court. After speaking with them, if necessary, your second call will be to your insurer to make certain you know the process to file a claim should you need to do so.

 

Facing any sort of legal matter can be incredibly difficult and highly stressful.  Try to keep a cool and level head about the situation. Keeping calm and optimistic can help you focus on the task as well as help you continue to run your business while the matter is handled.

 

Being prepared is always the best route to go. Make sure your assets and company are protected well before there is a problem and you will be in a better place to either curb a potential lawsuit or tackle it quickly.

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