Parental Leave and Small Business – How to Do What’s Best for Your Business AND Your Employees

Small business owners have come to realize that allowing employees to take parental leave is a good policy despite its costs.

It’s a great way to recruit and retain good employees, plus provides these benefits to you:

  • Employees are more likely to return to work after taking time off after having a baby
  • You have the opportunity to cross-train other employees to fill in for a person out on parental leave
  • You can train junior employees to take on new responsibilities
  • It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at how you distribute responsibilities within your company
  • Generally, employee morale will be higher if you offer parental leave, a fact than can save you money by helping you to avoid frequent turnover

If your company has 50 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave is optional for companies with fewer than 50 employees, at least from the viewpoint of federal law. However, your state might have parental leave laws that apply to you. These laws provide job protection for a specified number of weeks when parental leave is needed.

Parental leave is indeed popular – 80% of employees at small companies would take advantage of it, according to the Family and Work Institute. Of course, any paid portion of the leave will only serve to increase its popularity. An interesting statistic is that 91% of small businesses that provide paid parental leave report no noticeable effect on performance and profitability, according to ThinkGrowth.

It makes sense for your company to devise a parental leave policy that meets your needs and those of your employees. Your policy should be included in your employee handbook so that all the terms are understood by all.

The policy should spell out features like:

  • Scope: Under what circumstances can employees take parental leave – maternity, adoption, accepting a foster child, etc. – and whether it applies to both parents.
  • Benefit: How much leave time can employees take, and whether they will be expected to work from home.
  • Pay: How many leave days, if any, will be paid.
  • Notification: How far in advance must an employee request parental leave.

When an employee requests parental leave, a manager or the owner should review the employee’s duties and methods with other employees who will be filling in during the leave period. It’s important not to overload other employees, which might require the hiring of temporary workers. The review process should encourage brainstorming to see whether more efficient methods are available.

It’s a good idea to build relationships with freelancers or staffing firms so that a ready source of temporary labor is available during parental leaves. While employees appreciate the opportunity to take parental leave, they don’t want to be burned out by assuming the work of employees on leave in addition to their own workload.

Employee abuse appears to be rare. Employers should require some sort of documentation for non-obvious (i.e. other than maternity) situations. Employers can add flexibility to parental leave by allowing employees to use saved up vacation days and sick time to provide some paid time during the leave.

2018’s New Employment Laws Business Owners Need to Know

Among the many responsibilities you have as a business owner is to keep up with the latest laws that affect your company. Each year seems to bring change, and keeping up to date can be difficult, which is why we’ve outlined everything for you in this article.

Minimum Wage Laws

There are 18 states that have higher minimum wage requirements in 2018. Eight of these are due to increases linked by law to the inflation rate: Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota. The other 10 states passed laws raising their minimum wages: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State.

The salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act will probably rise in 2018. This is the threshold on the maximum salary subject to the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at time and a half. The threshold stood at $23,660 at the start of 2018, but we await the new figure due sometime this year.

One other thing that should be on your radar is the crackdown on companies that steal wages from employees. Prosecutors have been winning stiff penalties and jail time for companies that underpay their workers. For example, a Texas chain restaurant was found guilty of working their employees 12 hours a day and paying them less than minimum wage. Three of the chain operators are now serving time in prison.

Taxation and Deductions

The 2018 tax brackets have been lowered, with the corporate tax rate dropping from 35 percent to 21 percent. Corporations can also deduct state and local taxes. If you are a business owner, you’ll likely find your personal tax bill lower in 2018 due to the lower top rates. And certain small business, especially LLCs, are eligible for a 20 percent tax deduction on their gross income.

One other change pertains to the Section 179 deduction. This deduction allows small business to immediately expense the full price on leased or financed equipment and off-the shelf software rather than depreciating the cost over several years. The change for 2018 is that the deduction limit doubles to $1 million.

State Laws

There are a slew of new state laws and regulations that could affect your business in 2018. Check your state’s department of state for new rules affecting:

  • Equal pay for equal work laws: These laws outlaw the gender-based pay gap.
  • Paid leave: Several states have passed paid leave laws for employees seeking family or sick time.
  • Posting requirements: States frequently update their job posting requirements that allow current employees to apply for different jobs within the company.
  • Predictive scheduling: More states are climbing on the predictive scheduling bandwagon. Predictive scheduling laws oblige businesses to provide employee schedules ahead of time. The law usually applies to selected industries such as food services, hospitality and retail, but the rules vary by locale.

Outsmart the Spam Folder: How to Create Emails Guaranteed to be Read!

Email marketing is an important strategy for companies to connect with their current and potential customers. “Every $1 spent on email marketing produces $44 in return, probably because 58% of adults wake up and immediately check their email,” according to a source

Most business owners know the importance of collecting emails from individuals who visit their physical locations or their websites. Whether you create social media contests or offer newsletter sign ups, there are many ways to collect emails to be able to reach out at a later time.

The challenge to email marketing is there there is so much competition within the inbox as most people get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day. How do you prevent your email from going straight to spam and encourage people to actually open and read it? With this tips!

Include the Person’s Name

To help your readers cut through the clutter, make your email stand out by including their name, or they business name right in the subject line.

Examples of this include:

  • Amy, Start Off the Fall Season with a Fresh New Hairdo!
  • Paul-Find out How You Can Save 20% on Your Car Maintenance
  • Learn How Restaurants Such as Cheesecake Factory Increased Sales With 3 Easy Steps

Establish the Value of Your Offer

As you have seen in the previous examples, the subject lines didn’t just include the recipient’s name, but also clearly showed the value of the email offer. Online users are so bombarded by various online messages, that they are used to spending just a few seconds assessing what is relevant to them.

As such, creating an intriguing email subject line is the biggest determinant of whether your email will be read or tossed into the trash bin.

Utilize the Four U’s Approach

To write a great email headline, follow the Four U’s Approach, which directs the writer to:

  • Be Useful: How can your email improve the life of the reader, make something more affordable or easier?
  • Be Ultra-specific: What exactly are you offering?
  • Be Unique: How will you set yourself apart from the competition?
  • Be Urgent: Why should they respond right now and not ignore the email?

Connect on An Emotional Level

The three steps above helped the reader open and read your email, but how do you get them to act? Whether you want them to make a purchase, sign up for an offer, share your content, etc., try to establish an emotional connection with readers to help this happen. As half of all purchasing decisions are driven by emotional connections, emotional marketing is key to raising your sales.

Instead of simply listing an offer, incorporate a funny anecdote or share an experience with your readers. Include elements from stories, such as a beginning, middle and end and possibly even a moral lesson. Use this approach to inspire your audience to take action or simply to let them know how important they are to you!

There are many ways to optimize your email marketing according to your company’s unique needs. IOU Financial can help with a small business loan that will allow you to hire a marketing professional or invest in email marketing software that will offer personalization options and other features to create unique emails sure to captivate your customers’ attention.

How to Effectively Set Up Your Website to Collect New Leads

Content has always been a very important component of inbound marketing, and now more so with Google’s algorithm that reward fresh, relevant content. Without good content, it is hard to drive visitors to your website or convert them into leads.

Decide on your messaging strategy:

Here are four questions to ask yourself about your website’s content:

  1. Do visitors immediately understand what the website is about?
  2. Will visitors know which page they are on and why?
  3. Can visitors easily navigate to the next page?
  4. Is there some value proposition to cause visitors to interact with your site rather than someone else’s?

An affirmative answer to all four questions will translate into more traffic, more leads, and a lower bounce rate.

Here are a few tips for making sure your message gets out:

  • Use headlines and subheads to outline your most important ideas on each page. Avoid clichés, doublespeak and jargon.
  • Offer a powerful value proposition. That means either giving away something of value of offering it at an incredibly attractive price. Anything from downloads to free offers can be used.
  • Include clear calls-to-action, which direct visitors on what to do next to benefit from the value proposition. Put links into the body content that direct readers to registration dialogs, data intake forms, exclusive offers, etc.
  • Perform A/B testing on your copy and headlines to see which alternative yields better results. There are online tools from Google and others that help determine which variation drives more conversions.
  • Go beyond simple product content. Offer eBooks, videos, whitepapers and other types of educational content. This attracts visitors who may not know yet that they want to buy from you – they are on the outer tip of the marketing funnel. Suck them into the funnel with free, valuable content.
  • When delivering a sales pitch, use a writing style that matches colloquial one-on-one conversation. Pronouns like “you” and “we” are preferred over “one” or “they”. Never talk down to your audience.
  • Your content should help visitors solve their problems. Don’t go around bragging about how you are the best – instead make a point of explaining how your content helps viewers.

Share quality content:

When we speak about quality content, we are actually talking about quality, unique content. If you copy, you die. Search engines pick it up right away and penalize you, sometimes by de-indexing you altogether. If you have nothing original to say, don’t say it. Next, write to the highest language standards you can. Humans appreciate good grammar, sentence construction, proper spelling and logical thought. Your original content should educate or entertain its readership – boring content is, well, boring. People are busy and need to extract value from your content, or they will spend their time elsewhere.

There are times when it helps to provide evidence to prove a point. If, in the course of presenting your material, you quote facts, statistics, events, etc., give them some backing with a credit, either inline or as a footnote. A backlink to your source would be appropriate.

Finally, try to avoid jargon and clichés, such as “cutting edge” or “mission critical”. These phrases have been so overused that they have lost their meanings. They turn off readers and make your content seem suspect. Prose that contains phrases like “ground breaking” seldom is. Often, spammy websites substitute clever headlines and captions for clear content. You can’t trick your readers into enjoying your content with snappy headlines alone. Give them clear, concise material and leave the gimmicks to others.

If you’re looking to re-vamp your website and need to hire a marketing pro to do so, IOU can help with the funds. Visit our site at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more about how you can borrow up to $300,000 in under 48 hours.

 

Facebook Ads: The Basics for Small Biz

Being the most prominent social media platform around the world, Facebook can’t be ignored when it comes to planning an advertising strategy for your small business. Two billion people around the world use this platform every month, which gives companies a large potential customer base to connect with. The benefits of creating Facebook ads is you can set ad campaigns to any budget, and they can be viewed on any mobile device!

Setting Up Facebook Ads

Business Ads Manager allows even the most novice online user to set up eye-catching and relevant ad campaigns for their customers with these steps:

  1. Click on Create New Campaign
  2. Select a campaign objective—Decide what the main goal of the ad campaign is so Facebook can optimize features to help you get there, including:
    1. Awareness: brand awareness or reach
    2. Consideration: traffic, engagement, etc.
    3. Conversion: sales or store visits
  3. Name the campaign
  4. Choose your audience—Choose who sees your ads based on their location, age, gender, language and even interest and behaviors
  5. Set up Ad Placement—Facebook has the option to determine where your ads will be shown, or you can decide yourself. It’s important to note that the cost of the ad will vary based on where it’s placed. The options include:
    1. Facebook News Feeds
    2. Facebook Right-Hand Column
    3. Instagram
    4. Audience Network
    5. Instant Articles
    6. In-Stream Video
  6. Choose your daily budget and when you want to start/ stop running your ads
  7. Add content—Add a video, photos and or text to make your ad go live!

How to Track Facebook Ad Campaigns

Although business owners choose their daily budgets, it can take a significant investment to reach a wide audience on Facebook. As such, it’s advantageous to track the results of the campaigns and see which ads outperform others. Your audience may prefer videos over pictures, or they may respond better to one type of text over another.

Here are the steps to track ad campaign results:

  1. Click on Ads Manager.
  2. Choose between Campaigns, Ad Sets or Ads to see the analytics for each one
  3. Click on Columns dropdown menu
  4. Click on Customize Columns and decide what you want to track, such as purchases
  5. Click Apply to see results

The great thing about Ads Manager is that it provides options to not only see results but to test your ads and then make meaningful changes to help them perform better.

Finding Your Target Audience

Possibly the most important step in reaching your objective when advertising on Facebook is finding your target audience. You may create the most compelling ad, but if the people who see it have no need for your product or service, they will not buy it.

If you already know the demographics of your customers, Facebook can create a Lookalike Audience of similar people to show the ad to.

If you are not sure who to target, Facebook’s Audience Insights is a great tool. Simply type in an interest or topic close to your field, such as Ford Motors, and you can get information about the people interested, such as their demographics, what other pages they like, where they live, their relationship status and more!

You can then use this information to set up your custom audience on Facebook. If you need financial help in hiring a professional to set up your Facebook ads or to increase your social media reach, a small business loan can help. IOU Financial has worked with many companies to help them reach their goals with loans of up to $300,000. Click here to learn more and contact us today!

Google Adwords: The Basics for Small Biz

To keep your company profitable and competitive, it is important to create a strong online presence. To accomplish this goal, a necessary tool is Google Adwords, a search marketing tool. Unless you’re an internet or marketing expert, this process may be confusing, which is why we are going to break down the basics of using Adwords for your small business.

What is Google Adwords?

There are two ways to help your website rank higher in Google searches, organically or by paying. If you have a new website, it can take months or even years for it to climb the rankings, causing your site to live in obscurity and losing out on sales. As an alternative, Google allows you to pay to have your site show up on the first page of Google.

The paid results show up on the top of or to the right of organic results, and while they look almost identical, they do have a “Sponsored” label to identify them.

How Does Adwords Function?

Adwords allows you to advertise based on keywords (words or terms relevant to your business) that your customers are likely to search for when looking for your products or services. The tool provides relevant data, such as how many people search for the keywords, what the competition for each term is, and how much it would cost every time a person would click on the keyword (PPC).

Once you find relevant keywords, you can bid on them against your competitors, and if you place the highest bid, your link would appear in paid Google search results.

How to Set Up Google Adwords?

Once you have your keywords, you can set up a paid campaign on Google Adwords by following these steps:

  1. Select a campaign: Google gives you a variety of options for the type of campaigns you want (video, search, etc.). Select the type you want and give it a name.
  2. Choose the area: Decide where you want to advertise by country, state, city or even metropolitan area.
  3. Choose your bid strategy and budget: Google allows you to choose how to place bids, depending on conversions, clicks, views or impressions. You can also set daily maximum bids to stick to your budget.
  4. Fill out Ad Extensions: This is additional information you want your ads to show about your company.
  5. Write a headline and short text for your ad.
  6. Insert keywords.
  7. Set your default bid: The max you want to pay per bid.
  8. Enter your billing information.

How Do you Track Your Google Adwords Results?

Any time you spend money on marketing or advertising, it’s important to track results to see what is effective and what isn’t. Over time, you will see which keywords bring the best results, and you can concentrate on specific campaigns to help with your ROI.

To track your Google Adwords conversions, follow these steps:

  1. Click on Tools, and then Conversions in your Adwords account.
  2. Click on the +Conversion button.
  3. Click on website to track the results.
  4. Name the specific action you’re tracking, such as how many people sign up for your newsletter, make a purchase, visit a site, etc.
  5. It’s possible to define a monetary amount under the value section if you only offer one product/ service. For example, if you sell T-shirts for $19.99, that is the value you’d input. If you sell items for different amounts, you can specify that amount value for different conversions.
  6. Count: Choose to either count one conversion per ad click, great to track leads, or for sales, you can track every conversion.
  7. Conversion: Decide how long you want to track the ad for, from 1 day 90 days.
  8. Click Create.

By concentrating on finding a new audience base with paid online marketing, you can expose your brand to new customers and grow your sales. If you would like to hire an expert in this field to share their expertise in this area with you, or need financial assistance in paying for online ads, IOU Financial can offer easy and fast small business loans. Visit our site at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more about how you can borrow up to $300,000 in under 48 hours.

3 Excellent Online Communities for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in the U.S. are taking their careers more seriously than ever before as well as the necessary steps to become entrepreneurs. Since 2007, there are 45% more female-owned businesses—which currently employ 9 million people in this country.

Although women have been making significant progress in the business world in recent years, it is still mostly run and controlled by men. As such, females need their own communities to help them with the motivation to succeed, resources to start their own business and support to meet the challenges head on. The following online communities are great choices for women entrepreneurs:

Chic CEO

This community targets those females who want to become entrepreneurs, or are in the first stages of developing their ideas. A common barrier to the process is fear and the belief that they can’t do it, so Chic CEO provides resources to help women conquer their fears.

The site offers tutorials and advice from actual business owners that is easy to understand and follow. Check out the following resources:

  • 3 Day Chic Start: an online tutorial that focuses on customer service and brand development
  • Business Plan format guide
  • Blog
  • Resource Center that recommends books, interviews with other professionals and more

Yes She Can

As the name itself suggests, this online community empowers women to follow their dreams and live up to their full potential. This site targets female Los Angeles business owners and professionals, sharing local events, stories, advice and resources to empower females.

Started by professional writer, Lydia Mack, Yes She Can offers several cool features:

  • Sole news source for female LA entrepreneurs
  • Calendar with hand selected events, such as conferences, lectures, meetups and workshops to help women advance in their careers
  • Weekly newsletter with strategies to improve both the personal and professional lives of women
  • Monthly meetups where members meet on the first Friday of every month to network and share their thoughts and advice

Note: Although this group is Los Angeles based, it is a great example of local groups throughout the country. With an easy online search, females can find meetups and meetings in their areas.

Lean In

This organization was created by Facebook’s Founder and Board Chair, Sheryl Sandberg. Named after a book she wrote, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, this site is dedicated to aiding women in their quest to follow their ambitions.

They accomplish their goal in three ways:

  • Create Circles, where over 37,000 different groups of women meet throughout the world to discuss their objectives and create plans to succeed
  • Create awareness campaigns to educate the public about important issues surrounding the success of women, and men’s role in this process
  • Create tutorials, videos and discussion guides for both men and women on helping females succeed in the business world

If you are a female entrepreneur who has a great idea for a new business, but lack funding, turn to IOU Financial. Our company is committed to helping both men and women follow their dreams and ambitions. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to find out about our easy business loans of up to $300,000!