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Maintaining Customer Retention and Loyalty

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

(1) Know how your clientele thinks:

Veteran Business Owners should understand the habits, needs, and proclivities of their target consumers. The best services in the world may fall flat if the delivery fails the customer. Consider the everyday habits of their clientele, and which practices most conveniently serve each party’s economic base.

For example, the geographic location of a physical business may provide access to a busy, out-of-way community, or may place it out-of-the-way from the ideal markets. The best fertilizer in the world may rot unsold in a downtown Manhattan warehouse, away from the farmers who might benefit. Similarly, imagine the hottest nightclub with the coolest DJs, open only weekdays from 7 AM to 6 PM. In both examples, employees and resources would idle, and waste away your resources as well.

Idle hands are the devil’s work. But these are extreme, comical examples. In the everyday sphere, businesses should stay integrated with the surrounding community in order to keep establishments profitable, at full capacity, and catering to the needs of all concerned parties.

(2) Also know the distinct needs of different segments of your clientele:

Understanding the larger habits of the greater community does not suffice for a company seeking to maximize its profit margin.  Veteran Business Owners need to consider the diverse needs of each constituent of that community. Directed marketing efforts may sort these constituents according to demographic or interest groups.

Family-oriented clients may seek different offerings from your company than singles looking for thrills. Additionally, as discussed in previous blog posts, often a certain customer base shares unique interests and hobbies. Marketing efforts that break into these sometimes isolated (and often online) communities can benefit all concerned parties.

(3) Keep a well-trained staff:

All good bosses should invest in effective hiring and training programs. Remember, every business is different, and workers always face unique challenges adapting to their niche. 

Good staff should know how to address various customer demands, and these demands may vary based on the services the company provides, as well as intangible factors such as the surrounding community and the company’s resources and economic fortunes. Hence, the employees, as well as the managers, should have the knowledge to face these demands in order to maintain positive word-of-mouth end a healthy reputation. 

(4) Give deals, free items, or services when possible:

As the purveyor of fungible goods and services, at times every business owner finds themselves stuck with a surplus. Companies should try to see these opportunities not just to unload merchandise or services. These opportunities can spread positive word-of-mouth, as well as memorable experiences for the patrons or their families. 

Free stuff always tastes/feels better. Giveaways and freebies give an opportunity for that positive initial interaction with customers. Remember, business owners should get their customers hooked early. 

(5) Whenever reasonable, consider the customer is always right.

Consider “yes” the default answer to customer requests. This philosophy ensures the good karma necessary to recycle positive word of mouth, maintaining a healthy reputation. When possible, honoring special requests, including for children, friends, and other family members can ensconce your establishment in someone’s imagination as their favorite go-to institution. Such an overarching philosophy can do wonders in your ongoing project of maintaining the network of well-wishers and happy customers necessary to keep your business prospering.

 

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Anyone can start a small business. As your business grows, you may absorb greater liabilities. Soon enough, operations may complexify. At some point in this process, your procedures should account for the unforeseeable. Natural disasters may occur, as well as conflicts with customers or even with the court system. At this point, before you know it, your own assets may be at risk.

From the beginning, the best safeguard is a good records system. Even with your first small Etsy transactions, your standardized procedure for recording the most casual purchases may still hold credibility with a variety of governmental bodies, including unemployment and other administrative tribunals, should conflicts arise. 

Remember, as the demands on your new business turn more hectic and bustling, separation of your own assets from those of your business becomes more crucial. 

Different Business Entities

Fortunately, transforming your business into any one of several legal corporate entities may keep this oil and water separate, in order to simplify matters when complexities arise.

As your business develops, the business may shape-shift so that the institution should split from the ownership. After this split, creditors can no longer reach the private assets of the ownership. 

Incorporation can close a veil between the business and the ownership. The separation between ownership and operation allows fair accounting in situations where new stakeholders come into the picture, or situations complicate themselves beyond the owner’s ability to manage. 

Different kinds of incorporation may include registration as an S or C corporation or an LLC, or “limited liability company,” which often protects a business when multiple stakeholders drive the business’s direction. S corporations are most popular among small businesses because of the tax benefits.

Many small, home-based companies often don’t bother to take such measures. Incorporation may require annual fees, as well as differing taxation requirements. Some businesspeople may not find either incorporation or registration as an LLC worth their while. They may feel the corporate body itself may transform into an unwieldy entity not worth the benefits from the business endeavor itself. Either choice is valid. However, business incorporation does provide many tax advantages as well as protection from creditors, absent extenuating circumstances.

Business Insurance 

Incorporation with the state is not the only way to protect private assets. Several types of business insurance provide additional protection beyond a strong corporate veil between the owner and the institution itself. Business insurance diverges into countless varieties including business interruption insurance, property insurance, and workplace compensation insurance, as well as many more. Many sorts of business insurance protect against sudden disasters and accidents 

Remember Your Plan B

Even outside your business proper, your underlying skills may serve you as a freelancer. Business owners may freely utilize their talents outside their LLC or registered corporation. Additionally, freelance work often serves as a contingency plan when the main enterprise sputters. Remember that even in the worst-case scenario, no one can take away your talents and skills.

The Bottom Line

Fairness dictates the separation of a business itself from the assets of the owners in many situations. The operations of a business may bring in additional stakeholders whose missteps may drive the corporate direction wayward, and often, unforeseeable problems should stay within the corporate confines. Regardless of the type of corporate structure, entrepreneurs should prepare for sudden business problems to stay business problems whenever possible, and not immediately cause the ruin of hearth and home.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

Handling Expense Records as Tax Season Looms

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

Many small business owners brush off tax deductions that could save them and their small business large amounts of money. At the same time, all businesses need to understand their liabilities to avoid conflicts with the IRS or any other parties.

First, remember the importance of business records. Such records are convenient for your own internal purposes and play crucial roles in any drama that may come into play later. New entrepreneurs, especially, may underestimate the importance of their own private transactions. A clear and reliable records system can smooth out unforeseen problems in the future. 

Many independent businesspeople forget the need to track their own accounts in case prying eyes might zero in on any inconsistencies. Good internal records can resolve, for example, customer disputes before they escalate. Furthermore, these records can make all the difference in any future lawsuits or tax proceedings.

Second, remember that business expenses are deductible. Personal expenses, on the other hand, meld into your regular finances. However, even the best intentions can’t always prevent confusion between personal and business expenses, especially for small business owners who have chosen not to incorporate. The best solution lies with good planning. 

A list of possible business expenses may include advertising, rent, and/or mortgage expenses for office space, utilities, and employee salaries and benefits. Interest on loans may also provide a deduction. Finally, consider equipment, maintenance, and depreciation on any equipment as it wears out. 

Even relevant industry publications may provide just such a deduction. Imagine a doctor’s office without the New England Journal of Medicine. Most law offices couldn’t function without their legal digests, which are updated periodically. Any variety of other specialized professions may need these kinds of subscriptions to stay “in the know.” 

Business Expense v. Company Expense v. Personal Expenses

Your personal expenses may include your house, car, or cell phone assuming use only in a personal rather than business context. However, such assets may overlap with business expenses in some cases. Assuming some sort of overlap, generally, consider the percentage you use for business or personal reasons. In such cases, the percent of the value of maintenance of the asset becomes most relevant on Tax Day. Here, your accurate business records may come in handy.

Unfortunately, some other ongoing company expenses may not provide a tax break, even when separate from personal expenses. For example, if your company does any political lobbying, your company must shoulder the whole cost, taxation, and all. The same goes for fines and penalties. Ideally, a CPA can help sort out these technicalities.

Formal incorporation can help set these boundaries for you. However, some types of small businesses may see no need for this level of formality. 

Smaller businesses are more likely to utilize personal resources along with deductible business expenses. During tax season, itemizing these deductions may present greater challenges than the black-and-white restrictions facing more strictly incorporated companies, which must separate their affairs from their owners like oil and water.

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many business owners do handle their own expense records, but these records can become complicated very quickly.  A good accountant can prevent your worst headaches later. The IRS updates its regulations frequently, and a CPA may have more experience than others in more complex taxation matters.

In short, prepare, prepare, prepare. One of the best ways to prepare is to develop a good records system. Further down the road, an entrepreneur’s handling of expenses determines the path around many obstacles that fate may put in your path down the line.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

How to Lead Effectively in a Dynamic Environment

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Always Provide Clear Direction:

Employees should know enough to work independently to achieve the company’s goals. Management should have established procedures, routines, and policies so that the workers have a working understanding of their priorities. Interviewers should have some idea of a typical workday, even from the onset of the hiring process.

– Always stay up-front about changing goals and directions.

– Continue to provide praise for a job well done.

– Utilize multiple platforms, including but not limited to email, Zoom, GoogleDocs, and Skype.

2) Recognize the Importance of Morale:

Keeping employees in high spirits minimizes turnover and keeps the workplace alert in the face of new challenges. The environment itself should remind staff that the architects of the business care about their comfort and well-being. A sense of community can foster teamwork and cooperation. 

– Celebrate the Small Wins 

-Build Confidence in Job Security

-Re-work the company’s goals to fit circumstances. In other words, stay “in touch” with changes and be flexible.

-Always communicate COVID-19 protocols.

-Avoid infringing on employee downtime, especially during a crisis such as COVID that may bring added responsibilities.

3) Stay in Touch with Customer Needs:

Also, remember the importance of communication with customers. The needs of customers and the needs of your staff are interdependent. Veteran Small Business Owners should always consider the importance of a loyal network of well-wishers. 

Strategies to develop these networks could involve integration with the community, charity work, shared interests, and any of a variety of strategies to ensure brand loyalty.

Possible strategies (as discussed in previous blog posts) can include the following:

-Discounts and coupons

-Special advertising promotions

-Events relevant to your industry or individual product(s).

-Publication of newsletters or email lists that describe advances and developments.

4) Stay in Touch with a Changing Environment:

Think of how different we are now compared to 2019. The economy has shifted many possible functions. Remote work has even become the norm for many enterprises.

Let’s take that a step further. Now consider how different we are from 1985! At that stage, even computers were a novelty. Dramatic changes in the economic landscape are inevitable in everyone’s lifetime. In other words, change is eternal. Every good owner needs to stay prepared and embrace change.

Here are some strategies:

– Adopt new technologies as they arise to stay competitive.

– Shift employee tasks as their roles evolve with the surrounding economy.

– Strategically update your online presence to keep up to date with changes in your industry or society in general. Consider COVID updates as an example.

5) Evaluate Regularly:

Remember the importance of feedback, not only for your employees but your company in general. Positive feedback brings even stronger results than negative ones. During rough patches, business owners should celebrate small wins. Managers can make an event out of, for example, meeting a sales goal. The general workplace environment should stay upbeat, while the management provides an honest assessment of workplace performance.

Some ideas for regular evaluation may include:

-Regular feedback meetings on a periodic basis, not just when an issue arises, but as a routine process in managing the workplace.

-Inviting feedback on various aspects of the business.

-Providing discounts and incentives to employees, possibly tied to performance.

-Alter expectations for the business depending on circumstances.

Conclusion

Events like the COVID pandemic can change the game with the running of a small business. Those at the helm must use the skill in steering the company through these troubled waters. Use caution and stay calm. This way we can develop the flexibility and wisdom to ensure that everyone comes out on top.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  

https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

 

Considerations in Forming a Sole Proprietorship

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

The most common types of small business are sole proprietorships. As discussed in previous blog posts, many small business owners ferret out their economic niche from a specific hobby, interest, or expertise which they can best accommodate from the privacy of their own home.

Independent business owners should consider their relationship with the organization when deciding whether to incorporate. Legally, a sole proprietor often can’t separate from their business. The obligations between the person and organization stay one and the same. 

As for the positives, some business owners benefit from the ability to take their organization in unique directions based on their own judgment. Often, the owner can’t effectively delegate their vision to a newcomer. Small businesses often start with specialized concepts. Sometimes, the only necessary staff within the company maybe you, the one business owner.

Various negatives may also rear their heads. For example, some may perceive the company as less established as, for example, an LLC (limited liability company) or a company that has undergone formal incorporation. 

Business partners may view the company with greater suspicion. Remember, legal liabilities for a sole business owner and the organization itself are one and the same. The possibility of a “fly-by-night” operation may loom larger in the eyes of potential contractors.

Given the integration of a sole proprietorship with the business owner, the proprietor bears all the burden when problems arise. Furthermore, these organizations often hold less organizational backing, so funding and investment revenue present greater challenges. Finally, an ultimate sale of the business may bring further logistical issues. Outsiders may show little interest in a company tailored to the ambitions of one individual.

Positives are manifold for the right business owner. Sole proprietors may control their own schedules. Also, the simplicity of a sole proprietorship can make the process of tax preparation more agreeable. Businesses’ expenses are deductible, and the process is done much easier in general. Furthermore, sole proprietorships are much less expensive and easier to start up without the process of establishing an LLC or incorporating.  

Incorporation separates much of the owner’s legal responsibility from that of the business. The incorporation process also may loosen the grip of the owner on the business itself. After all, the process of registering a business implies the presence of other stakeholders. When others share an indispensable role in the organization, the process becomes worthwhile. 

In the end, the business structure must fulfill the needs of the owner. Sole proprietorships suit certain owners’ needs more than others. Some business ideas are unique enough that the owner should exercise the types of control that sole proprietors offer. Also, sometimes the founder simply doesn’t need a large, complex organization. 

Hence, when starting a new business, always consider the benefits of non-incorporation, as well as different types of incorporation. Many new owners may in fact benefit from incorporation as an LLC or, more formally, as an S or C corporation. However, other proprietors can satisfy their obligations independently. Assuming other stakeholders don’t complicate operations or legal matters, the simplicity of sole proprietorship should remain a viable option.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hope that this article has not only been valuable but provided some unique perspective.  We work hard to bring you important, positive, helpful, and timely information and are the “go-to” online venue for Veteran and Military Business Owners.  VAMBOA is a non-profit trade association.   We do not charge members any dues or fees and members can also use our seal on their collateral and website.   If you are not yet a member, you can register here:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

We also invite you to check us out on social media too.

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/vamboa

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/VAMBOA

Do not forget that VAMBOA members receive significant discounts on technology needs.   Check them out here: https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/ 

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