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Simple Ways to Get More Done in a Day

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

 

There never seems to be enough time in the day to finish everything you need to do. This is especially true for Veteran Small Business Owners.  Below are some ways to help better manage your time and fit more into your day.

 

1.) Take care of the toughest tasks first thing in the morning:

Getting done the most unpleasant, or time-consuming tasks first thing does a few things for your entire day.  It will provide you a feeling of peace as you move onto tasks that are more appealing.  It will also start your day in a very productive way and can help you clear your head.  Often we have more energy first thing in the morning and as the days go on, we are use it up.

 

2.)  Group similar tasks together:

When you group similar tasks together and get into a “groove” of accomplishing them, you will end up saving yourself a ton of time. Switching gears can be tricky and you tend to lose your momentum getting ready for the next task.

 

3.)  Focus:

Multi-tasking is not a great idea when you are trying to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Keep your focus on one task at a time. Trying to tackle too much all at once can feel overwhelming and will slow you down.

 

4.) Track your time:

You know how long it takes you to accomplish most of your day-to-day tasks. Try to plan your day according to how long it will take to do the things you need to get done.

 

5.) Take breaks:

This may sound counter-productive but taking short breaks can help you be MORE productive. A short break can help you restore your focus, clear you head, rejuvenate some energy and balance your mental state. We are all human, not robots. Even if you only take a five- or ten-minute break to take a quick walk outside, you will feel better and be able to focus more on the tasks you need to complete.

 

6.)   Plan for tomorrow:

At the end of your day, it is always a good idea to plan ahead for the next day. List out the most pressing or difficult tasks to tackle first thing in the morning and budget the rest of your time based on what you already know about how long each task will take you.

 

Taking the time to really understand your time needs and planning appropriately will not only save you time, it will make you much more productive.

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.

How To Reduce Small Business Lawsuits & Some Advice

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

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.

Customer Service for Small Businesses – Part 1

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By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Please enjoy this 3 part Customer Service Series

 

Providing exceptional customer service can be a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but particularly for small businesses. Whether you are just starting a business, or you’re an established small business, customer service is a priority.  Learning how to deliver great customer service can mean the difference between happy customers who keep coming back and those that make it a point to share with others to avoid you.

 

Provide stellar customer service by addressing these important factors:

  • Know what outstanding customer service looks and feels like
  • Create a culture of exceptional service within your business
  • Put in place systems, management tools, and reporting that make it easier to communicate with and please your customers
  • Train and empower your employees to solve problems
  • Consider outsourcing

 

Great Customer Service Is Good Business

Customer service is more important to consumers than price or product. Poor customer service will cost you lost revenue and customers and can tank your business.  Negative word-of-mouth, stories of poor service can spread instantly via viral videos and social media posts.

On the flip side, excellent service can boost you above your competition.  Treat your customers as individuals. You need a system in place that identifies your customers’ needs and be ready to meet them.

 

Create a Small Business Customer Service Plan

Take time to really look at your business, the services or products you provide, and all the ways you currently satisfy your customers or clients. Look at all of the ways your customer service has gone wrong in the past and what you could have done differently for a better customer outcome. It makes sense to obtain customer input too.

Once you know where to focus your energy, you can design a workable plan to address problems. You may also want to consider bringing in a customer service consultant.

 

Choose the Right Customer Service Tools

There are many tools available — from social media, to chat, to CRM systems — that can make it easier to serve your customers. Consider these small business tools to help provide stellar service:

-CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is an essential customer service tool. Not only will a CRM provide you with the reports you need to monitor your customer service, but it also can help you organize and streamline other aspects of your business including operations and marketing.

CRM helps you manage your customer relationships by letting you store and analyze data about your customers, create customized reports, and send custom emails. CRM also lets you slice and dice data so you can analyze patterns and trends.  You will need to find the right CRM system at the right price for you.

 

-Live Chat

Customers today expect instant gratification. Different customers prefer to reach out to you in different ways. While some might like email or phone, chat is essential for any small business. CRM systems do not offer chat functionality that allows a customer to “chat” with you about issues online. If this is a service you wish to offer you will need to use another platform, such as social media.

 

-Social Media

Your small business should be found on all major relevant social media platforms. Make sure that your business pages are consistently branded, filled out properly, and have information on how your customers can reach you. Social media is not just a place to post about your new products or an award you won; they are essential customer service channels that need to be monitored and used to interact with customers and address concerns.

 

-Team Communication Technology

Desktop and mobile apps can help your customer service team communicate issues quickly with each other and with you,

 

Get the Right Reports to Identify Your Customer Service Issues

It is critical to monitor uour customer service. Take the time to review service reports on either a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. You should be monitoring and reviewing the following reports:

Complaints Report

Make sure that your employees log all complaints so that you can review which customer complained, what it was about, how big the customer is, and what is being done.

 

-Glitch Report

These reports are not necessarily complaints but common issues that customers bring up about your service or product. Look closely at every open service ticket, what was last done to resolve it, and what is the next scheduled action.

 

-Time-to-Close Report

This report focuses on how long it’s taking to resolve customer problems. You can use this report to set customer service goals to improve your service.

 

 

Amazing customer service can help make your business a success, but it’s also easy to make service mistakes that can tank your business. A great place to start is the website for the U.S. Small Business Administration. They offer quite a lot of free online resources and training materials to help boost your business’s customer service – take a look here:

https://www.sba.gov/course/customer-service/

 

Keep an eye out for Part 2  and Part 3 of this Series.

Part 2 will feature Customer Service for Small Businesses : Train Employees to Provide Excellent Service.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Part 2

 

Below are more Tips for Your Home-Based Business related to your Home Office and Funding:

 

Your Home Office:

1.) Create a positive work environment:

Your home office needs to be a positive and comfortable place for you to concentrate and effectively complete work. Make sure that you select appropriate equipment and furniture that feels comfortable to you. Make sure that you have good lighting and that your computer workstation is setup ergonomically.  Be sure that you have fast Internet service too.

 

2.) Make sure it is legal to run a business out of your home:

There are some places or instances where it is illegal to run a business from your home. This can depend on things like your lease or your area’s zoning regulations. If you happen to learn that you are not permitted to have a home business operation, don’t become discouraged as there are a few things you may be able to do to get your business up and running anyhow.

 

Obtain a variance:

If it is illegal to run a home-based business in your area, a business variance can help you get around this problem. When your local government makes a special exception for your business it is considered a variance. Small businesses that don’t have customers visiting their premises are more likely to receive a variance. To obtain a variance, you will need to contact your city officials.

 

If you rent, check your lease with the homeowner.

If you lease your home, you will need to check with the homeowner to make sure that they are in agreement with you running your business from their property. Your lease may already include information on whether or not you can run a business from the home.

 

Consider moving:

If zoning or a lease is prohibiting your small business’s setup or growth, it may be in your best interest to move to a location that will better facilitate your business.

 

 

Funding Your Home-Based Business:

While a home-based business might imply lower operating costs, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is without costs and expenses. If you are low on funds, there are a few ways you can obtain funding for your home startup.

 

1.) Keep your costs low:

As exciting as beginning a new business is, do not let it give you license to spend freely to get up and running. It is very easy to invest in expensive technology, equipment, and marketing materials right away.  Remember overspending can set your business up for failure. Start by investing in only what you need to get up and running for now and try to keep overhead costs as low as possible. Overhead costs include things like rent, utilities, business insurance, wages, office supplies, equipment, and marketing expenses.

 

2.) Lease some of the more expensive items you need:

Equipment can be very expensive, but that doesn’t mean it has to be out of reach. Some larger business equipment can be rented with affordable monthly payments and can provide you the option to buy the equipment at the end of the lease; These items include copiers, printers, scanners, telephone systems, video surveillance systems, plant and warehouse equipment, and much more.

 

3.) Obtain a small business loan:

There are many options for small business loans available, you should select the one that is the best fit for you and your business.

 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a Microloan Program:

It provides up to $50,000 for small businesses. According to the SBA, the average sized microloan is $13,000. You can use these loans for working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, and even machinery or equipment.

 

Peer-to-peer lending:

If you do not wish to go through a traditional bank, you can use a peer-to-peer lending firm that matches borrowers with investors selecting which loans they want to

 

Home equity:

This one is a bit more risky than other options because if you fail to pay your loan, or your business fails entirely, you could lose your home. However, this option is usually less expensive and easier to obtain than other options.

 

Credit cards:

Credit cards are usually the one of the first places small business owners turn to. This is a good choice if your credit card has a low monthly interest rate.  There is the risk that you can severely damage your personal credit if you fail to pay at least the minimums.

 

Friends and family:

You can always ask a friend or family member for a loan if they have the resources. If you don’t pay them back, you do run the risk of damaging or ruining the relationship.

 

 

Starting and running a business from your home can be incredibly exciting and rewarding. You gain all of the freedom of flexible working hours and reduced expenses. Just make sure that you keep on top of the business.

 

We encourage Veteran and Military Business Owners to join VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association.   There are not any dues or fees charged to our members.  Here is a link to join:  https://vamboa.org/member-registration/

 

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