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Creating a Vivid, Engaging Website

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

As a new business owner, creating a website for yourself can be a challenge. Sometimes, learning applications like WordPress can facilitate the process. The basic codes behind website construction, HTML, CSS, and Javascript, can certainly help. The nuts and bolts can provide the foundation. Creating an inspiring website comes from the design itself.

Novelty in a new website keeps eyes wide and attentive. New plugins can maintain engagement. During the age of the web, novelties come from far and wide. Perhaps the latest Squid Game reference can perk up the ears of even the most jaded member of Generation Z.

Your website should make visitors react. Think in terms of a “call to action.” The website itself, or its online store, should get visitors excited. The marketing process should convey, “This is something new!” Colorful yet tasteful displays should distinguish your product or service in such a way as to convince the user that they are “in on” something exciting and new that will change their lives.

“Calls to action” in many cases can be mottos or phrases that convey the mission of the company or website. In others, these “calls” may invite subscriptions to websites, newsletters, or YouTube videos. Remember that these days, as in the early days of radio and television, some of the best content piggybacks onto paid content.

Each of these two strategies can provide benefits for your new business as you try to get your prospects excited. A good motto could get its own good feedback. A newsletter or YouTube video can provide a different approach. Only a few decades ago, most television contents was provided by advertisers. Perhaps these days, your new business can provide support for whatever amateur entertainer you yourself deem worthy of representing your new business idea. Whatever makes your brand more colorful and likely to rope in customers, do it!

Some websites are too colorful. These sites try too hard to attract attention. Many websites are busy and dense with unnecessary features. The better website “calls to action” reserve their most interesting features as special “guests” on otherwise calming, tasteful backgrounds. 

Consider a tastefully planned garden. The right “call to action” places the brightest flower in a tranquil setting that will draw the user while leaving the most utilitarian features in a soothing background tone. These everyday features hopefully will not be screaming at you relentlessly and stealing the spotlight.

Rarely does a business have so many exciting things going for it that it should blind a user with an overactive website. The link to an online store should not have blinking lights, dancing skeletons, and unsolicited music. However, a little bling never hurts the absolute most exciting messages in a business’s website. Consider a sports game. Everything may be low-key up to the final goal or touchdown. The same goes for marketing. Consumers can see right through an onslaught of melodrama. However, a moment of excitement provides the right moment to deliver that message that will make you and your customers happy.

 

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

Entrepreneurship entails bravery. New business owners give their time and resources for an idea. In some cases, entrepreneurs put their own retirement plans on hold, at least while building their new business. In other cases, an expanding business may need to consider the best options for retirement practices for employees. In all cases, careful research about retirement options should precede the development and expansion of any business.

Several options exist for both owners and employees. These options include the Self-Employed 401(k), the Simple 401(k), the Simple IRA, the Roth IRA, and the SEP-IRA. Each has different applications for both owners and employees.

Features of various retirement options include the “employer contribution,” the “employee contribution,” and differing administrative methods based on factors such as size and contribution amounts.

Setting up a Retirement Plan

The type of retirement plan depends on the nature of the business. The business may be a sole proprietorship, a family business, or may depend upon skilled employees. 

Ideally, of course, a successful business should pay into the futures of their employees or the business owner at the very least. When businesses don’t account for retirement plans, they generally have a lack of incoming funds to blame.  

Some businesses only have the owner to account for. Others need to attract valuable employees, which factors into the need to undertake the complex process of determining the correct retirement package for the onboarding process.

The following website provides a starting list of financial companies that may provide retirement options, as well as advice for further research: 

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/102015/10-providers-401k-plans-small-employers.asp

Options for Business Owners

Veteran Business Owners come from a variety of circumstances and walks of life. Some may have a vested pension from a previous employment situation. Others may be taking a full plunge before they’ve planned for retirement. 

At times, a sale of the entire business offers the only retirement option for a small business owner. Remember that a full sale is viable only in cases where the business can continue to operate.

The self-employed 401(k), or the “solo 401(k),” provides the best options for business owners without employees. Other plans treat employers differently from employees. This plan offers flexibility to tailor the contributions to the interests exclusively of the owner. For example, the proprietor has the option to set the “employee contribution” up to 100% of the compensation up to a limit of $19,500 for those under 50. Older business owners can contribute up to $26,000. An “employer contribution” can reach 25% for a total of $54,000.

Options for Employees

In order to attract the best talent, Veteran Business Owners should research their benefits packages. Many businesses need healthy relationships with employees to function. In light of the current labor shortage, some businesses need tradespeople with or without college degrees. 

Varieties of benefits options may attract these valuable employees. Among these are a traditional 401(k), a “Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees,” and a “Safe Harbor 401(k), which reduces administrative costs while reducing flexibility. Finally, the “Individual 401(k)” is a special option for couples who jointly operate businesses. 

IRAS versus 401(k)s

“IRA” stands for “Individual Retirement Account.” An employer does not pay into such an account but may provide eligibility to a certain IRA fund through a deal with the financial institution. On the other hand, a 401(k) offers joint contributions between employee and employer. 

One difference between an IRA and a 401(k) lies in the relationship with the employer. However, a second difference lies in taxation. Generally, with Roth IRAs, contributions to the account are subject to taxes, but contributions withdrawn in retirement are exempt. Withdrawals from 401(k) accounts, however, are indeed taxed.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes 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/ 

Online Security Tips

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

No company is a fortress, least of all small businesses. However, threats from outside are very real. Outside hackers as well as internal saboteurs can ruin a company. As the Internet comes of age, the good business practice requires that business people grow in sophistication just as the motley crew of potential scammers does the same.

1) Relationships with Employees

Creating a culture of security can save a business. One data breach can ruin a company. Access to a company’s online records merits careful consideration.

On an ongoing basis, workers should receive education about the dangers of online interlopers. Not every computer operator may understand even basic security concepts, such as the dangers of opening attachments. Periodic security courses can refresh employees’ knowledge regarding outside scammers, and the education can even benefit the employee in the long term.

At the very least, measures should be taken to ensure the separation of online life between work and home.  The use of workplace confidential information on unsecured home devices could make easy marks for scammers hungry for confidential information they can sell online.

Assuming the employee has an email account, the employee should know the basics of online scams such as “phishing,” fake online antivirus scams, and any of a host of more insidious schemes that may install malware or spyware onto company computers. Here is a link to some of the most common scams: https://uk.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-5-most-popular-scams-in-2020.html.

Additionally, former employees commonly defraud small businesses with the information they carry off from the worksite. Employers should be as realistic about their own needs as they are about their relationship with their workers. As employees leave the team, their logins should be deleted immediately. Password management software may help with this process. Applications such as Dashlane or Lastpass may prove invaluable in managing IT aspects of any sort of offboarding.

In any case, good business practice demands (1) careful education of employees regarding good security practices, and (2) consideration of the terms of employee separation.  

2) Consider Industry Standards: Different Industries may have Different Forms of Sensitive Information

Some businesses may handle specialized information subject to unique legal requirements. For example, medical records may constitute PHI (Personal Health Information). In such cases, contracting businesses need to adopt practices under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to ensure compliance. These practices may include seemingly extreme measures including computer privacy screens, injunctions against in-office cell phones, and measures to keep medical records out of the open air. Such measures may seem silly but are important for small businesses contracting with medical organizations that handle protected health information (PHI). Violations of HIPAA may range from medical ridicule to identity theft. These violations may also result in any range of consequences from jail time to monetary fines.

Other similar privacy laws may include the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA). Many smaller businesses handle confidential information under FERPA and HIPAA. Protection of such information is crucial and may require special training under each statute.

3) The “Right” Security Expertise

Many companies now outsource their information technology needs. As these companies become more affordable, Veteran Business Owners should research IT services that best fit their niche. Many independent companies specialize. For example, legal, medical, and educational IT companies may provide the right expertise for various relevant companies. The expertise of such companies may provide crucial expertise for the unique logistical and legal demands of smaller companies handling sensitive online information.

Finding the right security software can present another problem. The tricky landscape of online security can daunt the most discerning business managers. Some online security applications are outright scams. Others may not quite provide the necessary airtight protection against the most skillful breaches. Many small businesses find larger, established companies such as Norton satisfactory. Others choose to do their own research.

The Bottom Line

In sum, honesty and common sense should prevail in the management of company information. The most sensitive information may include private customer information, gatekeeping data such as passwords, and internal proprietary information hidden within company records. In fact, the standard should be airtight security whenever possible, rather than mere due diligence.

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/

Productivity Strategies for Small Businesses

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By James Pruitt, Senior Staff Writer

To stay effective, businesses need to investigate methods to streamline operations. Various techniques save time and energy when getting your company or organization above ground. These include organizational methods to streamline project management, information retrieval, employee communication, and decision-making processes.

1) Project Management:

Business cycles rarely flow with perfect routines and without bumps in the road. At times, seasonal cycles control the ebb and flow of resources of even the most stable businesses.  As a result, skillful project management must tackle the unpredictable trials that break the rhythms of even the most stable institutions.

In some cases, the same project rolls around each year. In these cases, project management systems can facilitate review and record-keeping. Applications like Asana can help create plans for these periodic bumps in the road, facilitating the delegation and simplification of tasks.

In other cases, a specific circumstance may arise, and a company has a new dragon to slay. In order to tackle such unforeseeable bumps in the road, organizations should retain the flexibility to mobilize. Cross-training can help employees take on diverse tasks within the company as needed. Also, keeping business operations flexible may allow wiggle-room for novel situations as they arise.

2) Good Information Management and Storage, aka a Good Filing System:

Even before the age of computers, any secretary could describe the benefits of a good filing system. Effective companies need to stay organized. Lost documents and jumbled service can destroy a company’s reputation. 

Applications like Airtable can help organize various documents and spreadsheets. Online applications can supplement well-thought-out systems within the office to ensure information is stored effectively and retrievably.

3) Employee Feedback and Communication:

The workers on the front lines are often the first to know when the first hits arise of a dire new issue. Worker feedback is essential. Proprietary software should include space for comments by operators, and management should take these comments seriously. Open-door policies should allow the rank-and-file to raise issues when appropriate. 

Companies should stay vertically integrated to ensure that the leadership and the rank-and-file stay on the same page. This way, problems are less likely to snowball before they reach the attention of management. Applications like Dropbox can ensure communication between various members of the team.

4) Decision Making: Streamlined Approval for New Initiatives:

How can we define “bureaucracy?” Sometimes, layers of middle management calcify into a concrete wall between innovation and leadership. Hence, skillful oversight protects businesses from careless decisions. Approval processes must be strict, quick, and effective.

A calcified bureaucracy in a large organization can stymie the best-laid plans. Careful scrutiny of processes ensures that only the best products and services go to market. Smaller organizations often struggle to maintain quality in the face of limited resources. Given restrictions in size and resources, the problem for Veteran Business Owners often is not bureaucracy, but lack of oversight.

Several workflow applications, such as Shift, can channel tasks to employees’ inboxes. Such applications can allow workers to arrive in the morning ready to tackle their workload independently.

Overall, productivity strategies should vary with the type of organization. However, the above four considerations can guide management across industries in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. In other words, both newfangled technological approaches and old-fashion office management techniques can help prune time-wasting redundancies from a Veteran Business Owner’s workday.

 

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

Who knew? Labor and supply shortages are creating havoc and cursing small businesses now more than ever, especially in the wake of reopening. Behemoths such as Amazon and Walmart have their safety nets. Smaller establishments must struggle with what they have. As a result, gaps in service plague the reputations and growth of their smaller counterparts.

Unfortunately for Veteran Business Owners, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 8.1 million job openings at the end of March, a new record. The pandemic only exacerbated a preexisting trend, and the reasons vary. 

Suggestions have included a lack of training opportunities, supercharged unemployment benefits, a mismatched skill set, and fear due to the pandemic for many. Whatever the cause, a shortage of qualified workers has left employers in the lurch despite a continuously shrinking workforce.

Gaps in service are a result, often leaving angry customers. This anger often shows up online. These days, an online presence can make or break a company. Angry reviews can pose real threats to a struggling business.

The trend nowadays is for buyers overwhelmingly to check their business’ online presence. How can business owners minimize angry diatribes on forums such as Yelp, Bing, Google My Business, and Facebook? Small employers are finding themselves trapped between the rock of the labor shortage and the hard place of customer satisfaction. The best short-term fix is better communication.

Business owners should build trust with their client base. Patrons should understand that they can work with the management of a company. These kinds of positive working relationships best protect smaller businesses from online reputational issues, which may leave business owners feeling helpless in their marketing efforts. Good working relationships often rest on a foundation of good communication, one of the variables that managers may control in this economic environment.

Methods of communication may vary. Updating profiles on relevant online business platforms is an easy first step. The business’s profiles on the above online platforms should provide up-to-date hours and terms of service. When possible, these sites should also include explanations for any changes in these terms. Additionally, a business owner should address any negative reviews directly as soon as possible.

Some verbal strategies can improve the outcome of discussions with a dissatisfied customer. For example, first, the person in charge should remain calm during a confrontation. Second, active listening can demonstrate that the manager understands the grievance.  Active listening methods generally emphasize engagement in the discussion. In other words, managers should not remain passive targets in these matters. One such technique may involve rephrasing the complaints in a manner that demonstrates a genuine understanding of the customer’s issues with their service. 

Finally, management should demonstrate their understanding of the weight of the problem and if possible, let the customer know the relevant steps for resolving such issues in the future.

Early communication with dissatisfied customers may prevent escalation or even an angry Yelp review. Overall, the goal is a synergy between the needs of the client and the capacities of the owner. During these novel times, business owners should engage any necessary communication techniques to achieve a meeting of the minds that leaves all parties satisfied and at peace.

VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association hopes 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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